Mauled by Her Own Dogs: Sheriff Releases Grisly New Details to End Speculation

Warning: This video contains information some may find disturbing.

GOOCHLAND, Va. – Goochland County Sheriff James Agnew answered numerous questions about the gruesome death of 22-year-old Bethany Lynn Stephens, who officials say was mauled to death by her pet dogs.

Stephens’ body was discovered Thursday evening in a wooded area of Goochland, by her father.

After news spread of the Virginia woman's horrific death last week, an avalanche of phone calls and social media questions poured in, prompting the sheriff to release new, disturbing information Monday in hopes of ending the speculation. Agnew said he did so after a long discussion with Stephens’ family.

“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 ribcage on the body,” Agnew said. "The injuries were very severe."

He said they made the decision to capture the dogs instead of shoot them. A friend of the victim helped capture them.

No foul play expected

Agnew said that while there was someone in Stephens' life who could be considered a threat, he did not think her death was the result of foul play. He also previously said that there were no strangulation marks on her body.

“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,” Agnew said of the numerous suggestions from the public that foul play was involved. “Having said that, we are still following up on those; we are still doing forensic tests.”

He again referenced the bloody scene that law enforcement discovered, and deferred to the expertise of the medical examiner.

“There was no evidence of any larger animal there,” Agnew said in response to the widespread belief that perhaps Stephens was attacked by a wild animal, possibly a coyote or bear. “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. “There were also scratch marks consistent with a smaller animal than something like a bear.”

In apparent reference to other suggestions about the case, Agnew said the medical examiner also concluded with “complete certainty that there was no sexual assault involved.”

Bethany with one of her dogs

A man who used to work with Stephens at a dog training facility told said she was very experienced working with animals, and loved her dogs.

Although Dr. Amy Learn, a veterinarian at Cary Street Veterinary Hospital, did not know Stephens or her dogs, she said that "dogs don't typically just out of the blue attack their owners, so there is typically some kind of provocation."

Everyone WTVR spoke with said the dogs were socialized, passive and had a significant bond with Stephens.

Sergeant Mike Blackwood said that multiple police departments contacted their office over the weekend to share information on similar attacks.

Blackwood added that Stephens' dogs were a “little bit neglected towards the end of this.” Stephens left the dogs with her father, and Blackwood said “he wasn’t taking care of them – it wasn’t his responsibility.”

The dogs had previously been indoor dogs and with her coming home maybe five times a week, they became more isolated. They were then kept outside “in the cold” in a kennel and only had contact with each other.


Toxicology report underway

The sheriff recommended that the dogs be put down and the family gave their permission. The dogs were euthanized at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“What I observed personally, it was in the community’s best interest,” Agnew said. “Once a dog tastes human flesh it is not safe to have that dog around humans.”

The animals are being preserved and the attorney general’s office has offered to help them find a lab to run toxicology on the animals. The toxicology report on Stephens will be complete in about 90 days.

“Since this has happened, I spent a significant amount of time researching attacks by dogs of this sort and while it is not an everyday occurrence, it is not rare and it happens with some frequency in this country,” Agnew said. “I don’t want to disparage any particular breed but if you do the research you will find that many of them are perpetuated by pit bulls.”

Agnew also clarified that the dogs weren't used for fighting, clarifying earlier statements citing incorrect information from a friend.

He said their organization opted for more transparency at Monday’s press conference “because the narrative on social media was so far off the mark.”

“The family is devastated, they are worn out,” Agnew said. “They are dealing with trying to piece everything together…they wish to remain private.”


  • Epicurean's Delight

    Animals are for eating, not being a enslaved as a pet. Since she didn’t eat the dog, the dog ate her. Pit bulls are delicious when cooked with cream of mushroom soup.

  • Buckwheat

    We used to have a pit bull. Never had any problems with him. Petey never cared for Alfalfa’s singing but none of us did.

  • Michael Vick

    “Everyone WTVR spoke with said the dogs were socialized, passive and had a significant bond with Stephens.” If that’s a significant bond, I don’t want one.

  • Christine Gavlick

    I own two pit bulls now. My male is 14 1/2 and my female 7. The older one is a superlover guy –wouldn’t hurt a mouse. The younger one is more aggressive with other dogs and , really, is a one-person dog–MINE. She loves my fiancee but is more MY dog. I keep them in the house and they sleep with me. I had three until one female passed. That was a stretch for pits since two females or two males in a no-no. I cannot fathom what set those dogs off to the point where they attacked that poor woman. The only thing I can guess is this: My two dogs are VERY territorial when it comes to mommy’s affections. They will start off playfully challenging each other, but , it has once or twice, become violent and I had a bear of a time separating them. Once, the UPS man knocked on the door. They both jumped up to look out the door and began fighting each other terribly. Not sure why but I think they were both trying to get THROUGH the door ahead of the other to get the UPS guy. They know he brings My dogs fight over FOOD, and things I give them treat wise. I HAVE TO SEPARATE THEM AT FEEDING TIME AND TREAT TIME! This is a strict rule in my house. I even bought a tazer (not to hurt them but just to scare them) and I zap it loudly when they start to act like they want to fight. They know I mean business. ANY DOG gets aggressive at feeding time and when treats are involved. Could be that that girl had not spent much time with them and they were vying for her attention to the point they started fighting and she got caught in a battle royale trying to stop them. It’s happened to me twice but I got VERY LUCKY. You have to reassure your dogs that you love them equally and train teach them RESPECT for YOU FIRST, AS LEADER,then the oldest dog and so on. There was no pack order there and no physical contact or love. They were probably fearful that she would leave them and they probably started fighting each other and she got caught trying to separate them. SO AWFUL. Prayers for the family and those poor dogs.

    • Glorious

      Never heard of a Beagle or Shepard or any other breed killing and eating their owner, so no amount of reassurance from you or anyone else about how loving your dogs are will allow me to fee comfortable around them.

    • You Never Know

      My nephew could tell the exact same story about his dogs. His one attacked him once and he brushed it off as he was protecting him. The next time put him in the hospital needing many follow up surgeries. Absolutely no provocation or reason and he had to put him down.

    • Supporter of America

      Seriously, your dogs ARE VIOLENT. They attack one another violently enough you bought a tazer, and they HAVE TO BE SEPERATED TO BE FED!! My dog barely lifts an eye if you take her food, treat, or toy from her while she is in the process of eating or playing. And I did it regularly to her as a puppy to train her, and as she has never nipped at either of my small children. My dog does not even bark if someone comes to the door, outside of getting up to get a pet maybe. And not all pitbulls are violent, but owners of breeds that tend to be more violent need to be more vigilant for themselves and others. How would your pitbulls react if a small neighborhood kid picked up the dogs toy to throw to them?? Owners need to be truthful, with themselves, about their animals actions regardless of breed or specie for that matter. I hope for anyone’s safety that comes to your door to deliver a pizza or a package that they are armed; just in case.

      Either way, a terrible and gruesome loss for this poor family.

  • Your drug dogs are ugly

    Pitbull = Death.
    Tired of these ugly, unpredictable drug dogs always making news. Negative news . The entire breed needs to go. The only good pitbull is one that is asleep.

    • Ruth Hagenbaugh

      Pitbulls are very loving and sweet dogs. Someone or something provoked these dogs. They will not attack without provocation. My daughter has 2 pitbulls that are big babies. They will attack you with kisses and hugs. Yes, they love to hug you. Don’t judge the breed because of a bad incident. I say foul play here. I feel bad for her family but I also feel bad for those dogs who lost their lives because of it.

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        Okay, what is a bung? You have no idea do you? No one but the owner of these dogs knows the true story of what happened. Did the dogs attack for no reason? Was there a reason? Did something else happen and the dogs just started eating her after she was dead? No one will ever know. She took the truth to the grave with her. To say that the dogs were vicious or unpredictable is not right. To assume makes you an ass. So let’s just say it was a tragic thing that happened and now she is gone and so are the dogs.

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        And you truly are a jackass. Bung is not ass idiot. Look it up. Just shows your true intelligence or lack thereof.

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        Is that the best you can do? I don’t get out much and I’m a flake? You can come up something better than that can’t you? You don’t know me. And you obviously don’t know pit bulls. You need to get out from under that rock you’re living under. I stand by what I say, pit bulls are sweet, loving dogs. You don’t like it? Too bad. Move on and get a life.

      • Destroy Them All

        Your being a flake says it all. What more do you need? How about the fact that you’re one of those crazy psychotic dog people who ignore facts and make excuses every single time a pit bull mauls or kills someone?
        People like you disgust me.

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        Still couldn’t come up with anything better to say. I can tell the lack of mentality you have. I never said I was a flake. So it doesn’t say anything except you have nothing sensible to say at all. Go away little bug. I love pit bulls and always will. Try spending time with a pit bull. Or are you too scared?

      • Destroy Them All

        Like I said, a complete flake who defends these killers to the end. How many years ago did your husband come to his senses and leave you? At least he knew what you were and got out when he could.
        Destroy Them All!!!

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        What the hell are you talking about? My husband never left me. I’m married, have been for 30 years, and very happily. You are a complete idiot that has nothing truthful to say. You don’t know me or my life. Pit bulls are not killers. Get a life already. Like I said, no one knows what really happened and what made the dogs go after her, if they even did. They are surmising what happened because no one saw it. They don’t know for sure. Were you there? Tell me what you saw then. You need a hug from your mommy. You are very sad.

      • Destroy Them All

        You’re such a flake that you continue to reply to my purely made up statements about your miserable husband. But I appreciate you providing that personal information. Now I use it against you.
        Actually the first two husbands left when they realized what you were. Lucky guys. This one is as much a flake as you are. You know, IQ borderline retarded, unemployed and on government assistance. Very sad.
        There’s a bill in Congress right now that would ban pit bulls and allow for their euthanization. Yours will be first to go! I look forward to a country without those crazed animals.

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        Now you’re really laughable. ally get a kick out of making up stories. Pit bulls will never be banned but maybe sickos like you will be. We can only hope. Have a very Merry Christmas and keep making up stories. You might become famous some day for writing fairy tales.

      • Destroy Them All

        Hey Ruth,
        What about the pit bull killing in West Virginia that just happened? Two neighbors vile pit bulls attacked a couple and killed the wife. Husband was injured but was able to kill one dog and wound the other.
        Let’s Hear the excuses for that one, flake!

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        What the hell does race have to do with my comment on loving pit bulls? Race has nothing to do with this.

    • Pittbull momma

      You are a jackass. My pittbulls are my babies and the only kind of dog I will own. They are not the only dogs that attack. I have had over 250 stitches in my head because of a HUSKY. I will never feel comfortable being around a HUSKY ever again. I was 4 when this happened. I will lay my head down on my pittbulls and take a nap. Put a treat in my mouth and let them take it out of my mouth with there’s. (Yes I have a picture of that) I trust my pittbulls with not only my life but also my granddaughters life as well.

      • Destroy Them All

        Her dogs were exactly the same. Right up to the moment they killed and ate her.
        Some of you are so clueless that it’s pathetic.
        Are you going to make any excuses to justify what those dogs did?

      • Ruth Hagenbaugh

        I guess you were there and saw the whole thing. No one knows exactly how this happened except the woman who died. No one knows if they just attacked for no reason or if they had a reason. Stop assuming. She is the only one that knows the truth and that went with her to the grave.

      • Destroy Them All

        Well ruthie, then enlighten us as to what happened? Try reading the article and you’ll see that no large animal attacked her and there was no indication she was killed by a human.
        Again, you’re a liberal flake who defends these killer animals no matter what the facts.

  • Headlights

    No, she changed their routine, she left them in the care of someone who did not want them. She lost her alpha dog status with them when she ‘abandoned’ them. Whichever one of them became the alpha, decided to eliminate the previous leader. Pack hierarchy.

  • warningfakenews

    If you stop being around, dogs go back to what is natural to them- pack behavior. It appears that she wasn’t part of their pack anymore.

  • Becky Jenner

    Not that NCIS on TV is real…but they did have an episode where a dog trainer put certain pheromones on a person/custodian and it made the dog go mad and attack them in the shower room.Maybe this is a real thing??? I feel badly for this woman,her family and the dogs….I say…foul play.

    • Brandon

      I agree foul play. Dogs do not just snap like that, I was thinking some kind of drug like bath salts. It made people eat people they should of ran blood work on the dogs

    • Destroy Them All

      You’re right Becky!
      Just before the attack a Sasquatch was dropped off by a UFO! Then it smelled the pheromones and launched the attack. The dogs fought bravely to save her, but alas, they couldn’t overcome their attacker. They realized she had assumed room temperature and figured they’d have a snack while waiting for help.
      You do realize you’re a disturbed flake for even thinking such foolishness could occur, don’t you?

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