Sheriff: Virginia woman was mauled to death by her dogs

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Deputies found a Virginia woman in the woods and saw her two pit bull dogs "eating [her] ribcage", the sheriff said on Monday about the "grisly" mauling of the 22-year-old who was found dead after taking her pets for a walk.

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

"There was no evidence of any larger animal there", Agnew said during a news conference Monday, in response to the widespread belief that perhaps Stephens was attacked by a wild animal.

"In my 40 years of law enforcement, I've never seen anything quite like it. Hope I'd never see anything like it again", said Sheriff Agnew at a press conference Friday, according to The Post.

Agnew said Stephens was 5-foot-1, no match for her burly 100-125 pound dogs.

Barbara Norris, tells NBC12 Richmond she was friends with Stephens and says she didn't know the dogs to be violent and would never turn on her friend. She believes the sheriff's account of what happened doesn't add up. "It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death".

Agnew said that they also didn't believe she'd been killed by a person. The examiner said this proves she was alive when she was attacked.

Norris said that the dogs' kennels appeared to have been broken open, as if the dogs had escaped to help Stephens.

After speculation that a Virginia woman's pit bulls couldn't have killed her, the sheriff overseeing the case released gruesome details to support that conclusion.

"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.

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"The medical examiner...made it pretty clear that it was not a large animal because the bite wounds didn't puncture her skull", Agnew said.

Authorities did not suspect foul play in the death and said no strangulation marks were found on the woman's body.

Non-believers also questioned if investigators had measured the bite marks on the victim and compared them to the dogs' jaws. "I've seen more non-pit bull breeds be aggressive towards people than pit bulls".

However, police are still investigating and are carrying out forensic tests.

Stephens had been living elsewhere and had left the dogs with her father.

"The family is devastated, they are worn out", Agnew said.

The dogs were euthanized Saturday at 11 a.m. and are being preserved until officials can perform a necropsy on them.

The toxicology report on Stephens will be complete in about 90 days.

Agnew said Stephens' family is convinced with the findings of the investigators. "Once a dog tastes human flesh, it's no longer safe to have that dog around humans".

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