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.