MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It has been a little less than two weeks since a prized show horse was taken from its stall at a Palmetto horse farm, only to be killed and butchered, possibly for its meat. The case has gone unsolved since then, but now there could be a break.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s office released the pictures of two men, something that’s left the horses owner somewhat optimistic.
Detectives are asking for help identifying two people who may have information about the disturbing slaughter of an expensive show horse in Palmetto on Oct. 25.
Detectives on Thursday released surveillance images of two men who may have information about the show horse’s killing. The images are from the Circle K store at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Moccasin Wallow Road in northern Manatee County. Also included are photos of a vehicle driven by the men.
Detectives say the men were in the store at 5 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25.
Horse owner Debbie Stephens said, “You don’t want to get your hopes up but they seem to be very cautious when they see someone on surveillance that they feel they would like to speak to.”
In the surveillance pictures taken from a nearby convenience store, the men are wearing boots.
While the sheriff’s office stopped short of calling the men “persons of interest”.
Dave Bristow with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said, “We can”t really go into a lot of the reasons why we think they may information on it, but the time frame fits, the vehicle they were in is a little bit of a different type of vehicle.”
The white vehicle is unusual. Stephens added, “Their vehicle is very unique, it is not your normal vehicle, so if someone saw that I don’t think they are going to forget it, it is not just a van or an S-U-V, it is not just car, it is different.” The owners of the slaughtered horse have created a reward fund and a foundation to alert others in the show horse industry.
Stephens went on to say, “We are going to raise awareness to protect all horses and to hopefully apprehend and prosecute the killers and the butchers who did this illegally on the “black market”, because it is a crime.”
The owner of the mutilated horse said she had never seen the men or the vehicle in those pictures. She just hopes others may have seen them and can provide important information to the sheriff’s office.
The 12-year-old horse was led from its stall in a barn at the Imperial Farms Equestrian Center in Palmetto and into a nearby area, where it was butchered. Deputies responded to the farm to find the horse dead and slaughtered, with large portions of its body missing.
It is believed that the killers targeted the larger-than-normal sized horse for its meat and did not know the horse was worth more than $200,000.
The reward fund to help catch the killers has grown to more than $50,000.
Anyone with information on the subjects or anything else relating to the case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011, ext. 2542 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.