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OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office says the suspicious death of a 61-year-old woman Sunday has been ruled a dog attack.

Oklahoma County Sheriff Tommie Johnson III said Tuesday the investigation is no longer considering a homicide. Instead, it is now being ruled a dog attack.

Johnson said they originally thought it may have been a stabbing, but it turns out the woman was mauled by multiple dogs in her own front yard.

“Very tragic, very tragic,” Johnson said. “I’ll tell you, that’s a sad way to die, to pass away, and so our heart goes out to her family.”

The victim was identified as 61-year-old Anita Mears.

Anita Mears in memoriam
Photo provided by Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office

The attack happened near SE 44th Street and Catfish Drive in Newalla.

“Mrs. Mears’ dog was also injured in the attack,” Johnson said. “We believe that the dog was trying to protect her.”

The sheriff’s office originally called the death suspicious and believed Mears’s injuries were consistent with several stab wounds.

A person of interest was also brought in at first but was quickly released.

“This isn’t a suspect, this is a person of interest,” Johnson said. “So, a person of interest can mean a multitude of things. That can mean someone who was nearby who could have possibly seen something happen, a witness, and so we try to get in contact with these people and get a better story.”

However, the Oklahoma County Coroner’s Office told them she wasn’t stabbed, she was bitten.

KFOR spoke with a nearby neighbor off camera who lived in the area of Mears’ home for over 40 years. The neighbor said they knew Mears and she was a “good neighbor.”

However, this neighbor said they had seen coyotes go to the pond on Mears’ property in the past, but had not seen any recently.

Johnson said right now there are no witnesses to what exactly happened, so details on that are unclear at this time.

The dogs could also still be roaming free.

“If you see a pack of dogs, stay away and please call the police,” Johnson said. “Obviously, they travel in packs so they can be dangerous when they do that. So, please stay away, protect yourself and call the police.”

Johnson said they have not yet located the dogs in question and that it’s obviously not uncommon to see dogs roaming out in rural areas of Oklahoma County and beyond. Johnson added that they do normally work with municipal animal control agencies in situations like these.