Investigator: Dogs who mauled owner to death became increasingly isolated in recent months

GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Investigators say the two dogs who mauled their 22-year-old owner to death in Goochland County had been increasingly isolated before they turned on her.

Bethany Stephens’ body was found last Thursday evening in a wooded area of Goochland County. Authorities later determined that she had been mauled to death by her two pit bulls during a walk through the woods.

Two days after the deadly attack, the dogs were put down.

According to detectives, for the past couple of months, the two dogs spent most of their time cooped up in a kennel outside of the home of the victim’s father in Goochland County.

The only interaction they had with people, investigators say, was when Stephens would come by to feed them and take them for a walk. Investigators added, though, that there were days those animals saw no one.

“They didn’t cause any disruptions to our groups,” Tori Trent, a friend of the victim who also runs a dog training and boarding facility called Tori’s K9 Adventures, said of the two dogs, Tonka and Pacman. “They needed no extra attention for behavior problems.”

That’s why last week’s grisly attack left Trent stunned. In fact, it’s hard for many people to understand how or why Stephens’ dogs turned on her.

“I was definitely shocked and at the time, just wanted more information, because, again, I’m not saying it is not possible,” Trent explained.

In the months leading up to the deadly attack, Tonka and Pacman went from living inside with their owner to living in a kennel outside of Stephens’ father’s home after Stephens’ and her ex-husband divorced.

“She left the dogs with her father, her father was not taking care of the dogs,” Sgt. Mike Blackwood with the Goochland County Sheriff’s Office explained. ” It wasn’t his responsibility, and she would come home maybe five times to the father’s house a week on average and take the dogs out.”

Investigators say that was the dogs’ only human contact as Tonka and Pacman grew more isolated and more distant from their owner — although no one can say with certainty that’s why the dogs turned on Stephens.

“While it is not an everyday occurrence, it’s not rare and it happens with some frequency in this country,” Goochland County Sheriff Jim Agnew added.

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