Juvenile Jailed in Fresno-Area Horse Killings

A 16-year-old juvenile has been arrested in connection with a series of horse shootings last month that resulted in the deaths of four Thoroughbreds, including two yearlings at Old English Rancho, located in the central California community of Sanger.

The shootings took place between March 10 and 12 approximately 15 miles east of Fresno.

The Fresno County Sheriff's Department Agricultural Task Force, acting on several tips, made the arrest April 1, a spokesman said. The suspect, whose name is being withheld because of his age, is in custody while awaiting arraignment on eight counts of cruelty to animals, six counts of shooting from a roadway and a variety of weapons and narcotic-related charges. A hearing date has not been set.

In all, seven horses were shot, five fatally, in the attacks, which authorities believe were carried out with a small-caliber rifle. A .22 caliber round was removed from one of the deceased horses.

The combined value of the horses was put at $200,000.

Two yearlings owned by leading California breeder Old English Rancho were among the victims. They were shot March 12 from a distance of 30 to 40 feet as they grazed in a pasture among a group of 15 yearlings. The farm has declined to release the parentage of the horses that were killed.

Elmer January, a neighbor of Old English Rancho, reported the deaths of two 3-year-old Thoroughbred fillies the day before. The fillies, by the farm's Relaunch stallion Commitment, were later found to have been the victims of shootings as well.

The suspect will probably be tried as a juvenile unless deemed fit for trial as an adult by a hearing judge, the sheriff's spokesman said.

A second juvenile suspect was arrested April 6 on animal cruelty charges allegedly committed during the same time frame. He was booked on separate charges and has not been connected to the first suspect, according to the sheriff's department.