A young woman is dead following a brutal attack at the jaws of her own pet pit bulls, according to police, who described the scene of her death as “grisly.”
22-year-old Bethany Stephens, of Glen Allen, Virginia, was reportedly taking the animals for a walk when the nightmare erupted.
Officers at the scene observed the dogs “eating the rib cage” on Stephens’ body and decided to offer the gruesome details to the public after an outcry by those saying the animals weren’t capable of killing her. Some argued that she could’ve been murdered by someone or killed by other large animals, however, authorities stated that their findings show otherwise.
Her death is the fourth by the pit bull breed in less than a month.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. She Was Taking Her Pit Bulls for a Walk When She Was Mauled to Death by Them, & Police Observed The Dogs ‘Eating the Rib Cage on the Body’
Stephens, who was raised in Goochland but who had a Glen Allen address, frequented the wooded area for walks with her dogs where her body was tragically discovered.
Her body was found by Goochland authorities at approximately 8:20 p.m. on Thursday near the 2200 block of Manakin Road.
In a press conference on Monday, December 18, authorities said they observed the dogs “eating the rib cage on the body” of Stephens after strategizing on how to capture them. They did not release this information at an earlier date because of the sensitive nature of the case. However, since many were taking the side of the dogs, trying to save them and blaming such things as wild coyotes, the sheriff’s office decided to offer the gory details. Sheriff James L. Agnew stated at the conference:
After talking with her family for several hours this afternoon we secured their permission and their blessings to release some details that we hadn’t. And 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 our trying to capture those dogs early Friday morning…while we were talking about strategies to catch the dogs we turned and looked, and the dogs had gone back over to the body. And I observed, as well as four of the other deputy sheriff’s, observed the dogs eating the rib cage on the body.
You can watch Monday’s news conference above.
Some speculated the woman could’ve been murdered by someone or killed by other larger animals. However, the sheriff said the evidence does not support those theories.
“It does not seem, from the evidence we observed, from the evidence we collected…that narrative doesn’t fit,” he stated. “On at least one of them there was blood, and a significant amount around the collar and neck. I can’t speak to the other dog, I’m sure it did too as both dogs were around the body.”
When asked why the well socialized and previously loving pit bulls may have killed Stephens, Agnew explained:
…I can tell you that since this happened I’ve spent a significant amount of time researching attacks by dogs of this sort and while it’s not an everyday occurrence, it’s not rare. And it happens with some frequency in this country and I don’t want to disparage any particular breed, but if you do the research you will find that many of those are perpetrated by pit bulls.
The sheriff confirmed both pit bulls were euthanized on Saturday, December 16.
“[Stephens’ body] was being guarded by two very large, brindle-colored pit bull dogs,” Agnew said during a previous news conference on Friday, according to WTVR.
An initial report from the medical examiner’s office explained that Stephen’s cause of death was “consistent with being mauled by these dogs.”
The woman had defensive wounds on her arms and hands, and authorities said she appeared to have been alive when the pit bulls attacked her.
“The first traumatic injury to her was to her throat and face.” Agnew said.
“It appears she was taken to the ground, lost consciousness, and the dogs then mauled her to death,” he added. “There were no strangulation marks. The victim had puncture wounds in the skull, and this was not a homicide. It was an absolutely grisly mauling. In my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I hope I never see anything like it again.”
2. Photos Showed a Loving Relationship Between Stephens & the Dogs
Stephens’ Facebook profile is filled with photos depicting her as a very happy person who was head-over-heels in love with the dogs who ultimately took her life.
While absolutely horrifying and tragic, this is not the first time that a death has occurred under eerily similar circumstances.
In 2011, Darla Napora, a pit bull advocate well known in her Pacifica, California community, dedicated her life to saving the image of the pit bull breed, believing that their behavior was in fact directly correlated with how they are raised. She even belonged to a group ironically titled “Bay Area Dog Lovers Responsible About Pit Bulls.”
The pregnant woman was found dead with the pet pit bull that mauled her to death hovering over her body.
Kara Hartrich was killed by her family’s beloved pit bulls on her 4th birthday. The little girl doted on the pets, and even shared tea parties with them. They were impeccably trained and raised with nothing but love, her mother said. In a statement to Daxton’s Friends, a website advocating the safe ownership of dogs, Kara’s mother stated:
My daughter had been brutally and viciously mauled to death, she died from massive blood loss, her arms, legs, skull, face and major arteries savagely damaged. The coroner said she didn’t feel the pain as they went straight for the jugular and continued to shred until she was lifeless and unrecognizable. These were her family pit bulls that we raised from puppies.
She picked them out herself. They were treated as members of the family, loved, exercised, fed well, and respected…they savagely murdered the little girl who loved and cared for them the most in this world without a second thought, directly following they acted as if nothing happened. She hadn’t riled them up, she hadn’t abused them. She was happily playing in the other room, they came after her and pulled her out of my mothers arms to attack, maul and kill her.
Her 2-year-old sister was also there. My mother was able to save her and told her to run upstairs and hide, while she tried to get the dogs to release Kara. My two-year-old little girl witnessed this mauling, the final sounds of her hero, best friend and sister being mauled by the family pit bulls. The dogs she also loved and cherished…yes any dog can and will bite—but any dog is not capable of this devastation——please do not let your children anywhere near this breed of dog…something has gone horribly and inexplicably wrong with them…it is not worth losing them, please I beg.
I couldn’t stand if one more parent had to live the hell that we are living now.
My brother had raised many pit bulls and one particularly captured our hearts. He was the sweetest well mannered gentle dog I had ever seen…I was always told the aggressive ones were that way because they were trained to fight and it was all in how they were raised…and if you got them from puppies that was the best way to raise any dogs.
Both of the dogs who attacked were brought home as puppies and picked out by Kara. These dogs never displayed any people aggression…always sat dutifully by her side…watched her have tea parties, sat by her side when she was sick, thought they were lap dogs and liked to snuggle. No warnings. No snapping. No growling…just snapped!
3. She Was a Fan of the Show Pit Bulls & Parolees
Many blame shows such as Pit Bulls & Parolees, as well as Cesar Millan and other pro-pit bull organizations for touting the breed as a “safe family pet.” Stephens was a fan and advocate of many of the aforementioned.
Heavy spoke with Dennis Baker, founder of Protect Children From Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Breeds. He stated:
Half of all severe and fatal pit bull attacks happen to either the pit bull owner or their loved ones.
Bethany liked Pit Bulls and Parolees as well as several pit bull love type pages. I’m sure she believed one or many of the common pit bull myths such as ‘Its all how you train them.’
These attacks often come from well trained and loved pit bulls that have never shown signs of aggression until that fatal day. Many of the pit bulls involved in severe or fatal pit bull attacks have passed temperament tests. Some even after the fatal attack.
Dog training is meant to enhance a dog’s natural trait. A dog’s natural trait comes from selective breeding. A Border Collie will have a natural desire to herd and will be naturally geared to this task just like a Brittany will be a natural pointer and it will be naturally geared to this job.
Pit Bulls have also been bred for a specific task that they are naturally geared for. Often described as high prey drive.
The key to being a successful dog trainer is to enhance a dog’s natural and bred-for trait. Unless you are training a pit bull for blood sports you’re working against the dogs natural trait and this is why even well trained and loved pit bulls do pit bull things. Look no further than the annual list of fatal dog attacks to see these genetics at work.
At least 60% of a dog’s behavior is determined by breeding. Decades of time and thousands of dollars have and continue to be spent on selective breeding because it is effective. The only dog people who want you to ignore this are pit bull people since the truth does not fit their agenda.
Forgetting perhaps how much he is being paid to say otherwise, Cesar Milan stated, as can be heard in the video above, the following about pit bulls and fighting breeds:
Yeah, but this is a different breed…the power that comes behind the bull dog, pit bull, presa canario, the fighting breed – They have an extra boost, they can go into a zone, they don’t feel the pain anymore. … So if you are trying to create submission in a fighting breed, it’s not going to happen. They would rather die than surrender. If you add pain, it only infuriates them…to them pain is that adrenaline rush, they are looking forward to that, they are addicted to it. That’s why they are such great fighters. Especially with fighting breeds, you’re going to have these explosions over and over because there’s no limits in their brains.
4. She Is the 4th Person to Die at the Jaws of the Breed Since November 29
Stephens is the fourth person to have died by the pit bull breed in less than a month. Three of the others were also killed while on a leisurely walk.
On December 11, a 77-year-old woman from Alsip, Illinois, was mauled to death by a pet pit bull who shared the same home as her.
On December 7, Emily Colvin, of Alabama, was talking to her aunt on the phone while taking a walk when she was taken down and viciously killed by her neighbor’s pack of pit bulls.
Read more about Colvin’s story by clicking the link below:
“On November 29, about 50 miles away in Guntersville, Alabama, a pack of pit bulls killed 46-year old Tracy Cornelius and severely injured another woman who had been walking along Jason Road,” Dogsbite.org reported. “The four dogs first attacked the woman. Cornelius intervened to help save her and the dogs turned on her. Cornelius was pronounced dead at the scene. The other woman was airlifted to a hospital in Huntsville.”
5. Some Are Taking to Social Media to Defend the Killer Dogs in Apparent Denial of the Facts Surrounding the Case, & Created a Petition to Save Them
While many are trying to save people from future fatalities and maulings from the breed, others appear to be in denial of what pit bulls are actually capable of and the history of such brutal attacks.
Nicole Rudy appears to think there is more to Stephens’ story, despite police reports and the medical examiner’s review. She stated on Facebook, in part:
I have seen both of these dogs from the time they were born to now. They did not have a mean bone in their body, and the sheriff I guess going by the fact that they were Pit Bulls stated that he believed they were bred to fight. Instead of these idiots making assumptions to make the rest of the world feel more at ease about them euthanizing them today they should be examining these dogs. If these dogs did what they say they did then they will have her DNA under their nails and in their stomachs. I haven’t heard a word about any examining they have done with the dogs. Also, why would her dogs do this to her and then guard and protect her from anyone getting near her?
One woman replied to the post that she believed it was probably coyotes that caused Stephens’ death, with many agreeing.
Some have gone so far as to signing a petition to save the murderous dogs that police say savagely killed the woman, not realizing they were already euthanized:
“PLEASE help save these poor babies! Somethings not right with this story and they are euthanizing her babies,” Barbara Norris commented on the petition.
“They’d kill you with kisses,” Norris told NBC 12, implying that something else may have happened to Stephens.
When The Washington Post spoke to Agnew regarding Norris’ comments, “he said the evidence found at the scene, including defensive wounds, clearly showed that the dogs were responsible for Stephen’s death,” according to the media outlet.
The Post added that the sheriff said relatives of Stephen’s “have requested for the dogs to be euthanized.”
When Emily Colvin was killed by pit bulls in Alabama while taking a walk December 7, a neighbor came to the defense of those dogs in a similar way. The man told WAAY that he was “shocked” that the dogs attacked Colvin to death. “They never used to snarl, bark or nothing,” he told the station. “Those dogs are the most loveable of all dogs I’ve ever known…if anything they’d lick you to death.”
*This article will be updated as information becomes available.