Goochland, VA – After days of being accused of spreading false information in the mauling death of Bethany Stephens, 22, the Goochland County sheriff released more details about the case.
Significant controversy erupted after Sheriff Agnew initially told the media that he suspected the two pit bulls who had killed their 22-year-old owner had been bred for fighting.
Friends of the victim, and pit bull advocates worldwide, attacked the sheriff via social media. They said the pets would have never done this to their loving owner.
“Let me cut right to the chase, the most important detail that we did not release because we were worried about the well-being of the family is that in the course of trying to capture the dogs early Friday morning ... we turned and looked … I observed, as well as four other deputy sheriffs, the dogs eating the rib cage on the body,” Sheriff Agnew said. "The injuries were very severe."
He explained that the situation with Stephens’ relationship with her dogs had changed recently.
Both pit bulls were indoor dogs, and very close to their owner. However, Stephens had moved out of her father’s house, and left the dogs behind in his care.
The indoor dogs had been moved to live in an outside enclosure, and had very minimal contact with humans in the time Stephens was away from them.
Sgt. Mike Blackwood said that the father “wasn’t taking care of them — it wasn’t his responsibility.” He didn't feed them daily, and he left them out in the cold.
It’s believed that their personalities may have changed during her absence.
Sheriff Agnew said law enforcement will continue to investigate.
Certified master dog trainer Valerie Paul told WTVR, “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, undersocialized, 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.”
She said that there is a good chance that the attack came from "energy gone wrong."
“There is a lot of speculation," Paul said. "But you can’t blame the breed,”
Sheriff Agnew said that there was no evidence to support any theories that Stephens was murdered.
“We had a number of witnesses come forward and we were able to put a time frame together and people’s movements together and they don’t fit with that particular narrative,” Sheriff Agnew said.
“Having said that, we are still following up on those. We are still doing forensic tests,” he said.
A medical examiner told the department that Stephens was attacked by the animals while she was still alive.
Stephens’ pit bulls, Tonka and Pacman, were euthanized with her family’s permission on Saturday.