Authorities in the U.S. state of Virginia have said a 22-year-old woman was mauled to death by her two dogs while out on a walk last week amid rumours that someone else killed her, reports have said.
"I observed, as well as four other deputy sheriffs, the dogs eating the ribcage on the body", Goodland County Sheriff James Agnew said in a press conference on Monday, PIX11 reported.
Investigators said the pit bullsguarded her when they discovered Stephens' body.
Sheriff James Agnew said after talking with Bethany Stephens' family for several hours Monday, they made a decision to release more details to the public. "In my 40 years of law enforcement I've never seen anything like it".
While she had a Glen Allen address, Agnew said, Stephens grew up in Goochland and frequently walked the dogs in the wooded area where her body was found, which was near an old family farm.
The two dogs together weighed twice as much as Stephens, who authorities described as "petite" and weighing 45kg.
Stephens' friends said it has been hard not only to wrap their minds around the fact that they've lost a friend, but that the culprits are her two pets. Her father had called police around 8:20 p.m. when he went searching for her where she usually walked her dogs, Agnew said.
"Those dogs would not attack her", Norris told WWBT.
Pit bulls found chewing owner's rib cage as police confirm no foul play
"The breed in and of itself is a high energy breed, they like to have a lot of structure and a lot of exercise, so by keeping them in a pen, alone, under-socialized, away from people - that energy is just building up and building up and building up and that's when you start to see dogs fighting more regularly, that's when you start to see more negative scenarios", Paul said.
Friends said Stephens had recently been receiving death threats prior to the incident, which is another reason why they question whether the dogs were to blame. "Somethings not right with this story and they are euthanizing her babies", she wrote on the page.
Everyone has said the dogs were socialized, passive and had a significant bond with Stephens. According the medical examiner, she was still alive when the animals attacked. "I wasn't able to see the body, so I can't tell you what happened".
Stephens suffered wounds to her face, throat and hands. "It's very possible there was something else that scared them, and unfortunately either they got into a fight with one another, and she was trying to break it up, or one or both redirected towards her in the moment". She [Stephens] would come home maybe five times to her father's house a week on average and take the dogs out.
"What I observed personally, it was in the community's best interest", Sheriff Agnew said in the news conference.
The dogs were captured, and authorities will pursue euthanization.
The toxicology report on Stephens will be complete in about 90 days.
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