An autopsy has confirmed that a Virginia woman was mauled to death by her own dogs.
Bethany Lynn Stephens, 22, died in Goochland in December.
Officials suspected that she was killed by her own pit bulls but couldn’t confirm without the autopsy.
“She had defensive wounds on her hands and arms from trying to keep the dogs away from her. It appeared the first traumatic injury was to the face and throat. Most likely Stephens was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and then mauled to death,” the report said, reported NBC12. “There were no strangulation marks, but there were puncture wounds to the skull in keeping with animal bites.”
Sheriff Jim Agnew said that with the autopsy results, the case is closed.
“I hope that the family can get some peace now. There are going to be those who aren’t going to believe and pick apart all the things that we’ve done, and that’s their prerogative, but unless somebody steps forward with some really strong evidence, we’ve closed this,” he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“Overall, the combination of wounds is consistent with the mauling by an animal or animals, possibly dogs,” the medical examiner’s report said. “Additionally, there was evidence of extensive postmortem animal predation at the face, torso, and arms.”
In addition to no strangulation marks, there was no evidence of a gunshot or any other attack.
No drugs or alcohol was found in Stephens.
NBC12 – WWBT – Richmond, VA News On Your Side
Stephens often posted pictures of herself with her dogs on Facebook and other social media websites.
An animal specialist told NBC12 that there are often no signs of aggression in dogs who have the capacity to kill until they’ve aged.
The pit bulls, in this case, were 3 years old.
“It doesn’t matter what type of dog it is. It’s not about the bully breed. It’s not about the Yorkie. It can be any dog,” dog expert Jemi Hodge said.
“Those dogs see red. At that point, they don’t care who their owner is. They don’t care who anybody is. All they know is they’re in the zone to bite, attack, and fight.”
The sheriff’s office said one of the dogs had a history of aggression, snapping at a previous owner.
The animals may have been stressed and underfed after Stephens’s father took care of the dogs while Stephens was away.
But Stephens’s family questioned the investigation, saying the pit bulls were raised by her and even slept in her bed.
The family gave permission to have the pit bulls euthanized.