A yearling half-brother to recent Test (gr. I) winner Leave Me Alone was among the horses shot to death during a central California shooting spree in March.
The defendant in the case, Scott Andrew Wood, 16, of Sanger, Calif., was found guilty of a variety of charges Aug. 24 in connection with the shootings following a nine-day trial in the Fresno County Juvenile Court. In spite of Wood's age, the case was heard in open court because it involved the use of a firearm in commission of felony acts, deputy district attorney Stephanie Savrnoch said.
She said a sentencing hearing, in which Wood could be confined to the California Youth Authority, is set Sept. 14 before Judge Gary Hoff, who heard the case.
The yearling, a colt sired by In Excess
produced by the Johnston family's Old English Rancho mare Fabulous Ballet (by Moscow Ballet), was one of two yearlings shot to death at his breeder's farm as they grazed in an open pasture March 12. A third Old Rancho yearling was nicked by a bullet but was not seriously injured.
Leave Me Alone who, in addition to taking Saratoga's Test Aug. 6 captured the Azalea Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Calder Race Course this summer, has earned $486,370 in her eight-race career, which includes five wins. The 3-year-old filly, who sold for $35,000 at the 2003 Del Mar Yearling Sale, is by the far most successful of Fabulous Ballet's offspring (three winners from her five starters including a second black-type winner and a black-type placer).
Also shot to death were two unraced 3-year-old fillies owned by Elmer January's January Ranch. In all, seven horses were shot, five of them fatally. One cow was also shot.
Wood was found guilty of one count of shooting within 1,000 feet of a school, one count of negligent discharge of a firearm, seven counts of felony vandalism, and eight counts of animal cruelty. In addition, there were 10 enhancements to the other counts for use of a firearm and a misdemeanor for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Wood has been in custody since his arrest April 1.
Savrnoch said Wood, who maintained his innocence at trial, lives close to the January Farm and Old English Rancho. He was connected to the crime by eye witnesses and circumstantial evidence, including powder burns from the .22 caliber rifle believed used in the shootings, which occurred over a three-day period.
"We put on more than 30 witnesses," Savrnoch said. "We put a lot of resources into the arrest and prosecution of this case. Fresno County took this crime very, very seriously."
She said that in addition to incarceration, authorities seek restitution from the juvenile's family, which by law would be capped at $33,200 per shooting incident.