Bethany Stephens’ body was found “guarded by two very large, brindle-colored pit bull dogs” on Thursday, Goochland County Sheriff James L. Agnew said during a news conference on Friday.
Police said they suspected the dogs had been bred to fight. Her cause of death was “consistent with being mauled by the dogs,” reports said.
“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.”
Stephens’ father reportedly called police after he hadn’t heard from her. After searching for the 22-year-old, her dad found the dog’s aggressively protecting her body in a wooded area near her home.
Once police arrived, they reportedly spent hours trying to capture the pit bulls. The dogs, Pac-Man and Tonka, are believed to each weigh as much as their 5-foot-1, 125-pound owner.
Agnew said it is not clear why the dogs attacked Stephens.
“It was an absolutely grisly mauling. In my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” he said. “I hope I never see anything like it again.”
Goochland County Animal Control took possession of the dogs. They will be euthanized, reports said.
Stephens’ friend, Barbara Norris, has been advocating to save the dogs.
“PLEASE help save these poor babies! Somethings not right with this story and they are euthanizing her babies,” Norris wrote on a Change.org petition.