GOOCHLAND, VA (WWBT) - A woman who was found dead in a wooded area was mauled to death by her two dogs, according to the Goochland Sheriff's Office.
Bethany Lynn Stephens, 22, was discovered just after 8:15 p.m. Thursday in a remote area in the 2200 block of Manakin Road in Goochland County.
The woman's father called 911 saying he hadn't seen his daughter in nearly two days. He went to look for her where she frequently walked her dogs in the woods.
He spotted her but thought she was simply hurt. Authorities stumbled upon a more grave discovery.
Deputies say they found the dogs guarding the woman's body when they arrived.
"The female had suffered severe trauma and was being guarded, for lack of a better word, by two very large, brindle colored pitbull dogs who were very reluctant to be caught," said Sheriff Jim Agnew.
It took authorities more than an hour to catch the dogs.
The sheriff says they were huge and trained to fight. Now, he's preparing to have them euthanized.
"They were big, strong, powerful dogs," Sheriff Agnew said.
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The medical examiner says the attack appeared to be a violent attack initiated by the dogs while out for a walk.
"It was an absolutely grisly mauling," Sheriff Agnew said.
He says the dogs had forced her to the ground, and she became unconscious before she was killed.
It appears the first traumatic injury was to her throat and face. She also had puncture wounds to her skull.
"There were various articles of clothing, underclothing scattered about the area, not far from the body and torn into small pieces. There were patches of blood," Sheriff Agnew said.
The town is now stunned by the tragic loss of one of their own.
"We're a very small family-oriented county," said Paul Dyer, who witnessed police activity outside her window. "I think we ended up going to bed around 12:30 or 1 o'clock ... they were still out."
Barbara Norris, who says she was best friends with the victim, says the dogs she knew would never turn on her friend. She says the account of what happened doesn't add up.
"Those dogs would not attack her," said Norris. "They'd kill you with kisses."
Norris says the dogs even slept in bed with Stephens at night.
"The wounds on her hands, face and throat were probably from them protecting her," said Norris.
She says she's going to do whatever it takes to make sure investigators have exhausted all possibilities.
"When she takes them for walks, she comes right back. When we looked at the kennels, they looked like they had been broken open and went to go help her."
Now, she is speaking with investigators to find out if there's more to this story.
"In my 40 years of law enforcement, I've never seen anything like it," Sheriff Agnew said. "Hope I never see anything like it again."
The Goochland County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the incident.
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