Dogs alleged to have mauled and killed owner after walk in the woods

A Virginia woman was allegedly mauled and killed by her two dogs while she had been out in the woods walking this week. Bethany Lynn Stephens, 22, was found dead, in what has been described as a “grisly” scene, on Thursday evening – two days after she was last seen taking her two bully breed dogs for a walk in her Goochland neighborhood.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Bethany’s father found her body being guarded by the “very large, brindle-colored pit bull dogs.” Goochland County Sheriff James L. Agnew, stated in his nearly 40 years in law enforcement, he had never seen anything quite like this. At the scene, police gathered shredded pieces of clothing covered with blood for evidence.

An initial medical examiner report indicated the 5-foot-one-inch Bethany who weighed 125 pounds, had defensive wounds on both her hands and arms. Her wounds also included puncture wounds in her skull which were consistent with having been mauled.

“The first traumatic injury to her was to her throat and face,” stated Sheriff Agnew. “It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death.”

Many animal behaviorists, friends of Bethany and veterinarians believe there is much more to this story. A family friend, Barbara Norris told CBS6News, that she did not believe the dogs would kill Bethany; both dogs slept with her in bed every night.

“Those dogs would not attack her,” Barbara said. “They’d kill you with kisses.”

Norris also stated the dogs’ kennels appeared to have been broken open, as if the dogs had escaped to help their owner. In addition a Carytown veterinarian said it would have been high unusual for a dog to attack its owner, and there are a lot of questions that should be answered. A man who had worked with Bethany at a dog training facility, stated the woman was a very experienced dog handler and there was no way anyone could imagine the woman’s dog named Tonk would ever hurt her.

Dr. Amy Learn, a veterinarian who did not know Bethany nor the dogs, also finds it very strange for dogs to overtly attack their owner unless there was some kind of provocation leading to the dogs’ aggression which caused fear.

“Was there somebody else there? Were they being attacked by somebody? Were they trying to defend themselves and their owner from somebody else, from a wild animal? Was it actually something else that attacked the owner? Were there stray dogs, coyotes [or] something else in the woods?” Learn asked during the Cbs6News interview.

Dogs can’t talk, and we may never know the real story why Bethany died and her dogs killed shortly afterwards. What do you think?


Both dogs are now in the custody of animal control and are likely to be euthanized.

(Photos of owner mauled and killed by dogs via Facebook)

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33 replies
  1. Linda Szymoniak says:

    I know that much of what they do on TV crime shows isn’t something most police departments can do, but you would think they could take a swab of the wounds and check any saliva there against that of the dogs. I fear the dogs will be killed and they are innocent – perhaps trying to defend/protect their person.

    • Animal Advocate says:

      There is a canine forensic pathologist out of CA. We had a dog killer case in Macon Ga in which the prosecution had hired this lady. She was able to get a rapist prosecuted from dog urine from the victims dog on the tires of the rapist’s vehicle. It sounds like someine may have tried to attack the victim or another dog, wild animal, person. Something is not right with this case . I don’t see why a DNA test from her dogs can’t be performed and would also hope the case is investigated for something prior rape or homicide. I agree with the animal behaviorists opinions and the veterinarians.

  2. Jayce T says:

    This whole incident reeks of foul play. Why is the sheriff in such a hurry to kill these two dogs? Did the sheriff’s department investigate the threats this young woman had recently received? There is too much information not included from the sheriff’s department to draw any conclusive answer. It took the father 2 days to discover his daughter had been missing? Why? With 5-6 different reports released, differing information is being released. There’s way too much information not forth coming from the sheriff’s department, and others. Kill the dogs, destroy evidence, Sheriff! Perhaps that’s your goal?

  3. Adrienne says:

    I do not think these dogs mauled her but something else attacked her, either a person or animal, but not her dogs. Hopefully we will have some answers from their investigation.

  4. Laurette Giardino says:

    It’s sounds like she was attacked by another animal and the dogs broke out of their crates. Sounds like a jump to judgement without all the facts. Hope there is someone with a level head will stop the killing of the dogs until a full investigation, if the dogs attacked her they would of not been found laying next to her body.

  5. Denise Moore says:

    Hopefully they do dna testing to see if her dogs actually attacked her or not, seems very odd her own dogs would hurt her when they normally protect you from whatever is trying to hurt you. So strange wonder were the dogs covered with her blood, were the dogs injured in any way? Lot of unanswered questions. So sorry for you Bethany Stephens loosing your life in this manner, so tragic, condolences to her family. I pray you all can find out the truth…

  6. DD says:

    Sad, but not right to kill the dogs when it was probably someone else who killed their owner. Maybe she was murdered and her murderer is out there. Just wrong to blame the dogs.

  7. susispot says:

    The last thing this woman would want is for her dogs to lose their lives. She loved them. I don’t think they killed her. There had to be another animal involved.

  8. Stephen Phillips says:

    DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE DUTY! These companions were “standing guard” over her, according to her father… and all who knew them and their relationship with her, vouch for them: Add to that, the evidence that their kennel doors were broken? Even a rookie could see they were NOT her killers! Don’t compound this tragedy, by killing those who tried to defend and save her!

  9. Nancy Raymond says:

    O spare me this BS story – but as par for the course because these dogs were ‘bully breeds’ they get the blame. This whole story makes little to no sense and I am sure there is much more to it than what was reported. Bullies are well known for their loyalty to their owner and ONLY because they are what is considered ‘pit bulls’ were they killed – I bet if it were two poodles the story would have a whole different slant.

    • Animal Advocate says:

      I agree with people being quick to judge. There are too many variables. Kennels were broke open, they were trained , they stood over her body . I hope they bring in a good forensics team of experts. Why can’t they sedate the dogs , take dental measurements, run DNA tests. Her family is already devastated. There is probably a human killer/rapist out there and the dogs were defending her. Or if another dog came in between and she tried to separate them. The article never stated how long she has had them, did she raise them from puppies? Were they rescues? She was an experienced dog handler something is just not right. My condolences to her family , friends. A horrific situation all the way around

  10. Pam says:

    I think a wild animal killed her. They should do a DNA test. There are animal communicator that can talk to the dogs also. Prayers to the family.

  11. Ellen Cottone says:

    We are all animal lovers here and animal welfare activists but with this case you do not look back. Authorities believe the dogs were trained for fighting. The brindle in more than one picture has a muzzle strategy. There is no question by investigators that the injuries to the hands and arms that she had were when she was alive, defending her selves.she was out numbered and out weighed, she was only 100lbs, the dogs were twice that weight. Evidence collected at the scene will never be released to the public and the family with do respect. Don’t be fooled by the guarding what ever set off the attack, when the animals snap out of it they garden. But the fact is that they will not tell you is they are covered in her blood so get it out of your head about a bear attack. A bear will be nowhere around a human and any dog. They know better. The look in the brindle eyes are dead and cold. No love and connection there. Do not believe she slept with her dogs she did not.authorities Do believe they were bread for fighting.Keep your prayers for animals that deserve it. Also the father let 2 full days go by before looking for her and finding her body. They know what they are working with here. Many pit bull owners especially who own more then one have stories to tell about there dogs turning on them. Her first traumatic injury was an attack to her throat, that’s not bear, that’s all pit bull. She passed out from bleeding out and they didn’t stop there. They are guilty of the crime. It is the family who has asked for them to be euthanized

    • Carol says:

      The brindle is wearing a gentle leader, type of leash used on dogs that pull when being walked. It is not a muzzle. I don’t believe these dogs killed her. You also made comments about bears staying away from humans, well I’ve seen many videos on the news from local people in CT with bears lounging around their yard and pool. Some of them even enter the house. By the way I saw a show on television about autopsies. A man was attacked and killed by his dog. The family and police had no doubt that this is what happened. After an autopsy it was discovered that the man had a heart attack and stopped breathing and his dog was frantically trying to revive his master. The man had bite and scratch marks all over his upper body, neck and face. The dog did not kill him.

      • ellen cottone says:

        a bear will,never aproch a human with 2 dogs in the woods. their is one indisputable and condemning piece of evidence in regard to the 2 dogs. a consistent detail that leaves with out question. let me know if you need to experience this forensic fact.

    • linda says:

      Hello ellen. I’m in a quandary regarding this article. What I’m confused about is that the dogs were found “guarding her body”. I wished a DNA test was taken.

    • Alice says:

      What does not make sense to me, is why would Bethany go out walking in the woods alone while her dogs were shut in kennels or crates as claimed? Normally people with dogs do not go out walking in the woods – maybe to the shops or something but not to the woods – without their dogs?

      • ellen cottone says:

        the part about the kennel broken is a lie. she had the dogs with her. her father asked her to come over and take care of her dogs.

  12. Ellen Cottone says:

    This is back wood Virginia, an unusual place with an unusual culture we could not possible relate to. This is rural dog fight country.

  13. Barkley's Mom says:

    Another story to fuel the fires against the “Bully Breeds”. The dogs are guarding their Mom and yet are being accused of “mauling” their owner. There has to be some explanation as to what happened and I highly doubt it was this woman’s dogs that killed her. These dogs will most likely lose their lives be it their fault or not, because the authorities will look no farther than the two dogs that were guarding their Mom. Rest in peace Bethany Lynn Stephens, your life ended much too soon and only you know what really happened.

    • ellen cottone says:

      garding their mom barkley!?
      fuel the fire against bully breeds. boy are you mistaken.
      if your intrested in the dogs, real mom then you should hope they think to investigate where the puppies came from originally
      these dog’s were bread for aggression. these dog’s mother is from a fight kennel.
      these are violent animals
      do not be confused.

    • Cheryl Hanna says:

      I have no idea what you are asking? The only comments regularly removed are ones demeaning or criticizing someone’s race or religion. Review committee otherwise lets 99% of comments be posted whether or not the writers agree.

      • Alice Harding says:

        OK great, thank you. Then I wonder where my comment went, as it said it was awaiting moderation.

        Never mind, the question was this. It was said somewhere that dogs had been locked in crates or kennels and had broken out. So then had Bethany been walking in the woods without them? That seems odd?

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