WARNING, DISTRESSING CONTENT: Police have revealed gruesome details about the injuries suffered by a 22-year-old woman brutally mauled to death by her dogs in order to clear up misconceptions about the incident.
The body of Bethany Lynn Stephens was found in the woods by her father when he went looking for his daughter in Goochland, Virginia as she often walked her dogs there.
Her father found the dogs and quickly called emergency services, telling them the dogs appeared to be "guarding" her body, American broadcaster WTVR reports.
After news spread of the young woman's horrific death, the Goochland County Sheriff department was flooded with phone calls and questions on social media about the incident, with speculation about the incident and incorrect information rife.
As a result, the sheriff on Monday released the new, disturbing information Monday after lengthy discussion with the victim's family, in the hopes of ending the speculation.
At a press conference, Goochland County Sheriff James Agnew described the place Ms Stephens was found as a "bloody" scene and said the woman suffered "very serious injuries".
"I observed, as well as four other deputy sheriffs, the dogs eating the ribcage on the body. The injuries were very severe.
"It was quite apparent that she had been dead for quite some time," he told reporters.
Sheriff Agnew said Ms Stephens had wounds on her arms, chest and face.
"The victim had defensive wounds on her hands and arms trying to keep the dogs away from her, which would be consistent with being attacked while she was still alive," Sheriff Agnew said in an earlier interview.
At Monday's press conference, he confirmed police did not suspect foul play, however said investigations into the woman's death were ongoing.
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Due to her body being found in the woods there had been speculation Ms Stephens may have been attacked by a wild animal like a bear or coyote.
But Sheriff Agnew said that idea had been ruled out.
“The medical examiner… made it pretty clear that it was not a large animal because the bite wounds didn’t puncture her skull,” Sheriff Agnew said.
“There were also scratch marks consistent with a smaller animal than something like a bear.”
Sheriff Agnew clarified the two pitbulls had not been used for fighting, as was earlier speculated by a friend of Ms Stephens'.
Sergeant Mike Blackwood added the pets were “a little bit neglected" in recent weeks, after Ms Stephens had left the inside dogs with her father who kept them in a kennel in his yard "and they became more isolated".
The Stephens family gave permission for the dogs to be euthanized last Saturday.
“What I observed personally, it was in the community’s best interest,” Sheriff Agnew said. “Once a dog tastes human flesh it is not safe to have that dog around humans.”
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