Investigators in Goochland, Virginia, a rural community about 30 miles outside of Richmond, say the petite, 5-foot-1 young woman, who weighed a little more than 100 pounds, was mauled to death by her dogs, which had a combined weight of about twice hers, while out on a walk earlier this week.
Goochland County sheriff Jim Agnew held a press conference on Monday, four days after Bethany Lynn Stephens' body was found from the wooded area she frequented, to quell rumours and widespread misinformation of foul play on social media.
"(Her body) was being guarded by two very large, brindle-colored pit bull dogs", Sheriff James L. Agnew said during a news conference Friday.
Sheriff James Agnew said after talking with Bethany Stephens' family for several hours Monday, they chose to release more details to the public.
"It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness and the dogs mauled her to death", Agnew told reporters. Bruising did show that some of the bites were inflicted while the victim was still alive and others after she passed away.
Reports of the 22-year-old woman's death have been met with scrutiny and skepticism about the likelihood that her beloved dogs would turn on her. Bethany's friends told WRIC that she had been getting death threats, and that they didn't believe the dogs alone were responsible for her death. He told the sheriff that her dogs appeared to be "guarding" her body. "I can't tell you if it was a blunt force or if it was a mauling, but I know those dogs didn't do it", Barbara Norris said.
"We had a number of witnesses came forward and we were able to put a time frame together and people's movements together and they don't fit with that particular narrative", the sheriff said. Agnew said they were seeking to have the animals euthanized.
It's still unclear what led to the deadly mauling, but a man who used to work with the Stephens said the pet owner loved the canines and was very experienced working with animals, according to WTVR. Police described them as pit bulls.
"Either something frightened them or there was an altercation between the two dogs that [Stephens] happened to be in the middle of", Paul said.
Sheriff's deputies then collected more than 60 pieces of evidence from the scene of Stephens' death, which was covered with blood and shredded pieces of her clothing.
"That's not something I would normally see", she said.
The dogs were euthanized Saturday at 11 a.m. and are being preserved until officials can perform a necropsy on them. "Having said that, we are still following up on those; we are still doing forensic tests".
"The injuries were very severe", Agnew said.
Veterinary experts have also said that it's is extremely rare for a dog to just attack at random. A toxicology report is being run on Stephens and is expected to be completed in about three months.