The neighbor of a 22-year-old Virginia woman contacted police in December 2017 when they heard screaming coming from the woods nearby.
The Goochland resident thought the shrieks of pain might have been from a coyote, but a day later, Bethany Lynn Stephens’ father found her body in a wooded area near his home, according to a police report.
And she was being “guarded” by her two pit bulls, Pacman and Tonka.Bethany Stephens/Facebook
According to earlier reports, blood and torn pieces of clothing were scattered all around the area where her body was found.
But police were unable to initially approach the body because her two dogs would “lunge and bark” at anyone who came closer than 20 feet toward the body.
They were eventually tranquilized and taken from the scene.
A medical examiner later confirmed that the woman’s two dogs had mauled her to death during a walk.
Her cause of death was determined to be from “combined multiple sharp and blunt force trauma due to mauling by animal(s),” according to a police report. The report read:
Most likely Stephens was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and then mauled to death. There were no strangulation marks, but there were puncture wounds to the skull in keeping with animal bites.
Stephens’ family said she raised the two dogs from the time they were puppies, but police now say they may have an indication why the dogs turned on her.Bethany Stephens/Facebook
According to WTVR, authorities said the two dogs may have been neglected shortly before the incident occurred.
Stephens had left the two dogs in the care of her father, who kept them in an outdoor kennel “in the cold” and allegedly didn’t feed them daily. Sgt. Mike Blackwood said:
“He wasn’t taking care of them – it wasn’t his responsibility.”
Stephens saw the dogs about five times a week, and they were mostly left with just each other’s company, which Blackwood said could have stressful for them.
He said owners should be aware of how changes may affect pets. He told WTVR:
“This was such a huge lifestyle change. There are so many factors within that lifestyle change that we may see as small things that the dogs may see as larger.”
Both dogs were euthanized following the attack.
Stephens’ father has not spoken out publicly about the alleged neglect.