A woman was mauled to death by her own pit bulls, who then stood guard over her bloodied body.
Bethany Lynn Stephens was taking her dogs out for a walk in Goochland, in the US state of Virginia, when they attacked her.
Police said the 22-year-old suffered horrific head and throat injuries.
Bethany’s dad called the emergency services at 8pm on Thursday after she hadn’t returned from walking the dogs.
He went looking around the area where she often walked the dogs, and found the disturbing scene.
Local news station WTVR reported that he found her dogs in the woods, appearing to be ‘guarding’ Bethany’s body.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived and spent around an hour to 90 minutes trying to catch the pit bulls, before Bethany’s body was taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office.
An initial report from the MEO indicated that the dogs were behind the killing.
‘It appeared the attack was a violent attack initiated by the victims’ dogs while the victim was out for a walk with the dogs,’ Sheriff Agnew said.
‘The victim had defensive wounds on her hands and arms trying to keep the dogs away from her, which would be consistent with being attacked while she was still alive.’
Agnew added that he didn’t know the dogs’ history, but that they were ‘big, strong, powerful dogs’ that ‘you would suspect were bred for fighting, just in looking at them’.
He has ruled out murder at this stage.
The dogs are now being held by Goochland Animal Control, and the sheriff’s office will now order them to be put down.
‘In my 40 years of law enforcement I’ve never seen anything like it,’ Agnew said. ‘I hope I never see anything like it again.’
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