Sheriff: Dogs who mauled owner to death in Goochland County euthanized

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GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The two dogs who authorities say mauled their 22-year-old owner to death have been euthanized, according to Goochland County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators say Bethany Stephens’ two pit bulls attacked and killed her while out for a walk in the woods last Thursday evening.

The disturbing case has made headlines across the country, and with misinformation being spread on social media, the sheriff’s office held a press conference Monday afternoon to help clarify exactly what happened.

“This was an absolutely gruesome scene,” Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew said.

The sheriff explained the two dogs — Tonka and Pacman — were euthanized on Saturday after the victim’s family gave authorities permission to put the two animals down.

A medical examiner told the department that Stephens was attacked by the animals while she was still alive, and that one of the animals had a significant amount of blood on his collar and neck.

The sheriff added that both animals were still attacking the deceased victim when the officers arrived on scene.

“While we were talking about strategies to catch the dogs, we turned and looked, the dogs had gone back over to the body and I observed along with four other investigators the dogs eating the rib cage on the body,” sheriff Agnew explained.

Sheriff Agnew said the family members have accepted what happened and agreed to let the county euthanize the dogs.

He hopes the victim’s friends, and the people of Goochland, will better understand as well.

“I can tell you from what I observed personally, I think it was in the best interest of the community, of public safety, to do that,” Sheriff Agnew said. “Once a dog tastes human flesh, it’s no longer safe to have that dog around humans.”

Stephens’ family agreed to let the sheriff reveal the new details in hopes that everyone — including those who speculate she was killed another way — would understand what happened.

The autopsy showed no signs of trauma, that some of the attack injuries were made while she was still alive and that her wounds are consistent with a smaller animal — not a coyote or wolf.

The animals will be preserved for evidence.

The Richmond SPCA released a statement Tuesday morning saying that they support law enforcement, and also urge the community to not “take a tragedy as an occasion to make unwarranted and unfounded generalizations about types of dogs.”

You can read the full statement from Robin Robertson Starr, Chief Executive Officer of the Richmond SPCA, below:

The Board and staff of the Richmond SPCA are deeply saddened by the news of the tragic death of Bethany Stephens. Our hearts are with her family and we extend our sincere condolences to them. Every tragedy that results in the loss of life is unique and should not be the occasion to make broad generalizations about groups, whether they be groups of people or of animals. Every dog is an individual and circumstances vary in every tragic instance.The term “pit bull” is a vague one and often it is used based on nothing but the perception of unspecific physical characteristics which are highly subjective in nature. There are many dogs that may be identified as being of the “pit bull” type that are wonderful and loving family pets. We support the investigative work of law enforcement agencies, and we also urge our community not to take a tragedy as an occasion to make unwarranted and unfounded generalizations about types of dogs. Every dog, just like every person, is an individual.”

Kristin Smith will have new details tonight on 8News at 5 and 6.

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