What led two pit bulls to turn on their owner in Virginia?
The body of 22-year-old Bethany Lynn Stephens was discovered a mile from her home in rural Virginia, where she had taken her two pit bulls for a walk in the woods last week.
“I have no idea” what caused the attack,” Goochland County, Va., Sheriff James Askew told reporters Monday during a press conference. “I can tell you that since this happened, I’ve spent a significant amount of time researching attacks by dogs of this sort, and while it is not an everyday occurrence, it’s not rare.”
The idea of dogs turning on their master was considered unthinkable and rumors quickly circulated on social media that she had been murdered. But police took the unusual step of showing reporters photos of the gruesome scene to prove without a doubt that her dogs did it.
She had no strangulation marks, but did have bite wounds on her head and rib cage, according to police, who ruled the death was not a homicide. The pit bulls were later euthanized.
Robert Brandau, a trainer who's known as the "dog bite expert," examined the story for Inside Edition.
"I know some really wonderful pit bulls and they are wonderful dogs," he said, adding they need to be handled and trained properly. "They can become aggressive and if you have an aggressive incident with a pit bull, it can result in serious bodily injury."
Brandau suspects an outside factor may have set the dogs off.
"Something that caused them to become hyper, excited, then, they are being held back, possibly, then they turn and lash out on anything that moves," he said.
Pit bulls are notorious for vicious, unprovoked attacks. In 2015, a man was viciously mauled by pit bulls in the Bronx, N.Y. Last month, a 7-year-old boy was mauled to death in Lowell, Mass., after reaching into a yard to pet a pit bull.
But Brandau says attacks on a dog’s owner are extremely rare, even for pit bulls.
"It is very rare that your own dogs would turn on you and kill you and then eat you," he said.