The state medical examiner has concluded that a 22-year-old woman who the Goochland Sheriff's Office says was attacked and killed by her two pit bulls in December indeed died from “trauma due to mauling by animals.”
Sheriff Jim Agnew said Tuesday that, in light of this month’s autopsy results, it has closed its investigation into Bethany Lynn Stephens’ death.
“The medical examiner’s report substantiated what we observed,” said Agnew, who released a seven-page report detailing the investigation’s findings. “I hope that the family can get some peace now. There are going to be those who aren’t going to believe and pick apart all the things that we’ve done, and that’s their prerogative, but unless somebody steps forward with some really strong evidence, we’ve closed this.”
In addition to the autopsy, the report detailed investigators’ findings in grisly detail, most of which he had already made public after the attack in an effort to tamp down rumors of foul play and other conspiracy theories that proliferated as the story spread across the country.
Stephens’ body was discovered by Goochland deputies on Dec. 15 near the 2200 block of Manakin Road. She had been walking the two dogs in a wooded area near her father’s home. Authorities said they saw one of the dogs, which the report says were American pit bull terriers, eating a portion of Stephens’ body.
The medical examiner found defensive wounds on Stephens’ hands and arms “from trying to keep the dogs away from her.”
“Overall, the combination of wounds is consistent with the mauling by an animal or animals, possibly dogs,” the medical examiner’s report says. “Additionally, there was evidence of extensive postmortem animal predation at the face, torso and arms.”
The report says no drugs or alcohol were found and that aside from the dog attack wounds, there was no evidence of a gunshot, strangulation or any other kind of attack. The final report states: “Stephens was not raped, and this was not a homicide.”
The Sheriff’s Office said one of the dogs had a history of aggression, snapping at a previous owner. They said the animals might have been stressed and underfed after Stephens moved from the home where they were kept, returning once a day to walk them.
The dogs were euthanized after permission was secured from Stephens’ family.