FLORAL CITY, FL (WFLA) — A Citrus County woman, 74-year-old Nancy Lee Freeman, and her 41-year-old daughter, Katherine Freeman, have been arrested on multiple animal cruelty charges in an investigation that spanned across four states.
Citrus County Sheriff’s deputies first responded to the women’s residence, at 8424 E. Haines Ct. in Floral City, on July 10th to check on the pair when a cremation company could not get in touch with the women to deliver a pet’s remains. No one was home when deputies arrived, however they discovered dozens of emaciated animals.
Deputies say they found four severely emaciated dogs, thirteen cats, and a turtle inside the home with no food or water; a horse found dead, decaying in a stall; ten caged rabbits — five of which were dead and five with no food or water. Animal control officers rescued the animals, plus four horses, the five rabbits and eight goats from the property. It appeared the horses and goats were surviving on rain water alone.
Deputies say they found a tote with a horrible smell containing the remains of several liquefied dogs and dead cats were found in garbage bags in the home. Neighbors also told deputies two horses were buried on the property. Animal control officers discovered one of the surviving horses was actually a retired thoroughbred race horse and a direct descendant of Secretariat and Seattle Slough. Almost all of the animals that were rescued have been adopted.
Deputies also discovered a stolen vehicle and a stolen horse trailer from Arkansas on the property.
When deputies attempted to locate the women, neighbors said they might be at the Moffitt Cancer Center because Nancy Lee Freeman suffered from cancer. Initially, investigators initially thought the animal abandonment might be due to a serious illness, but they say the investigation revealed much worse — the women had committed this type of crime numerous times in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida. The women allegedly rented homes in these states and failed to pay rent. Investigators say when the landlords went to the homes to collect rent, the women were no where to be found, but animals they had adopted had been left at the properties.
Deputies say the pair also used Nancy Lee Freeman’s illness as a tool to scam people for more than ten years.
It was discovered a Facebook page was being used for victims of the women, to share stories and help find the women. “There were people coming out of the woodwork who had been scammed out of thousands of dollars by the Freemans,” said Lora Peckham, supervisor of Citrus County Animal Control.
“This Facebook group became an invaluable resource for me during this investigation,” said Citrus County Sheriff’s Deputy Michele Tewell. “It helped me to really see the severity of this situation and how many people – and animals – this mother/daughter team hurt. They actually used Nancy’s illness as a tool to scam people for over ten years. Having had cancer myself, I was pretty motivated to put a stop to this.”
“What we have here is a mother/daughter team who scammed people across four states out of thousands of dollars – animals, feed, veterinarian services, supplies, vehicles and more – not to mention the animals that are dead from having been entrusted to them,” said Citrus County Undersheriff Commander Buddy Grant.
Nancy and Katherine were taken into custody in Hillsborough County on Citrus County warrants. They face serious charges of animal cruelty and neglect and grand theft.
According to the sheriff’s office, the women each had a number of aliases. Nancy Lee Freeman was also known as Nancy Frieman, Nancy Nygaard, Nan Speed and Nan Steed. Katherine Freeman was also known as Katherine Joanne Nygaard, Kathleen Lee, Kat Frieman, Lee Freeman, Joanne Speed, Joanne Steed and Joanne Flutterby.
Below is a timeline of the women’s crimes put together by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office:
2005 – Fayette County, Kentucky
Nancy and Katherine were charged with animal cruelty in Fayette County, Kentucky. Katherine was convicted and Nancy was acquitted.
2009 – Mt Vernon, Kentucky
The Freeman’s leased a horse farm outside Mt. Vernon and another farm in Stanford. They had 28 to 32 horses between both farms. There was never any water or feed at the barn. The property owner/neighbor buried many horses after they left. They then rented a trailer in Stanford. Here they left dead dogs, cats and horses on the property, as well as 7 to 8 horses buried there. They left the place destroyed.
2010 – Woodford County, Kentucky
An animal cruelty case was conducted by Woodford County Animal Control.Multiple horses were uncared for. They fled Woodford in middle of the night, owing Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital $21,205 for the treatment of 2 horses; they only made a payment of $500.00 and $10.00. They also owed Tri-City Small Animal Clinic $141.
2011 – Dyer, Tennessee
The Freeman’s were renting property again. A neighbor called the property owner regarding thirteen horses left on the property. A feed store received custody of the horses, five of which died due to the neglect they had experienced. Warrants were issued for animal cruelty, however, the pair fled in the middle of the night and the warrants were never served. The property owner filed a lawsuit against the Freemans for back rent and damages, however, the Freemans were not there to be served.
2012 – Bigelow, Arkansas
Again, the Freemans fled this location in the middle of the night. They destroyed a home and left owing money to the owner for rent and a feed store. They abandoned three horses, a dog and cats and owe $5,000 in boarding fees.
2012/2013 – Lonoke, Arkansas
The Freemans rented at 6505 Mt. Tabor Rd. and fled in the middle of the night again. The property was so destroyed the owner sold the property after they fled. They stole a horse trailer in Jefferson County and asked to test drive a vehicle and drove off. This is the horse trailer and vehicle that were found on the Floral City property.
2013-2015 — Floral City, Florida
Owes McFarland Feed $900 in Inverness, owes MWM Lawn Care $1,000, owes Ranch Hand Feed Store in Brooksville.
The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office says a civil suit was filed in Ocala for refusal to pay Peterson & Smith Equine $2,737.87. Nancy, under an alias, provided a letter saying she could not attend court due to her 7-year-old son’s annual brain and spine MRI from a prior diagnosis of Medulloblastoma had been scheduled for that day. However, Nancy never had a son.
There is a misdemeanor traffic warrant for Katherine Freeman out of Arkansas. Both women have expired driver’s licenses and both have entered into multiple purchase agreements for which money has never been paid, according to investigators.