An elderly Missouri pastor has been found mauled to death in a pit bull pen belonging to his son.
Rev. John Reynolds, 84, was found dead last week with injuries consistent with those from an animal attack in Callaway County near Williamsburg.
Reynolds son, John E. Reynolds, 52, says he doesn't believe any of his 17 pit bulls killed his father.
He said the dogs were his dad's 'best buddies' and wouldn't have harmed him.
Lt. Tim Osburn from the Callaway County Sheriff's Department says the son came home at 7.37pm on October 13 and found his dad lying dead in the kennel.
Osburn said: 'The dogs were loose and there were obvious injuries to the body that appeared to be bite marks. We know that the victim had a medical history'.
He added that an autopsy has shown that some of the bites occurred before Reynold's death and some were inflicted after he died.
'The medical examiner has not issued a cause of death. For this reason the death is still under investigation', Osburn said.
'There is a possibility that some of the tests that are done after the initial autopsy may show something. It's too early for me to say that the cause of death was being mauled by those dogs.
'I know what the scene was like. It has the appearance of that. But when you step back, take your time and do a thorough investigation, sometimes things aren't exactly the way they appear.'
Osburn added that the victim fed the dogs frequently and was in the house with the pit bulls on numerous occasions.
Authorities say no charges will be filed and the dogs will not be seized because the county doesn't have enough resources to handle all 17 dogs.
'We will continue to investigate the case. It's an unusual circumstance because the victim is a co-owner of the animals.
'Obviously that's why there will not be criminal charges. If your own dog bites you, a dog can't be charged with a crime.'
Osburn confirmed that there were six adult pit bull dogs and 11 pit bull puppies in the kennel.
Reynolds' son says he believes that a mountain lion or even stray dogs were responsible for the attack that took his father's life.
But a field program specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation said he doesn't believe a mountain lion was responsible.
'It's his opinion that there is no way that those bite marks and injuries to the victim were caused by a mountain lion', Osburn said of the specialist's view.
Authorities are continuing their investigation pending results of the autopsy and toxicology reports.