Florida Sheriffs Search for Clues That Might Link Horse Meat Murders

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By T. D. Thornton

Regional law enforcement agencies in Florida are pooling resources and asking for the public’s help to find out if the theft and killing of a sport horse for its meat in the Gulf Coast city of Palmetto earlier this week is connected to the similarly executed butchering of a horse in the same area in 2015 and a knife attack that killed a horse on an Ocala farm over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Palmetto slaughter in the overnight hours of Dec. 1-2 reportedly involves a Thoroughbred valued at $20,000 stolen from a farm on Buckeye Road in a rural agricultural and industrial area off I-75, about 55 miles south of Tampa Bay Downs.

“They broke a locked fence gate, went in, walked past other horses, took hold of this one, and walked it a few hundred yards away into a field and killed the horse there,” Randy Warren, a public information officer with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, told TDN on Wednesday.

“These appear to be people–and we assume it’s more than one person because of what they would have to go through to do this–looking for horses that are Thoroughbreds or sport-caliber horses, and they’re looking for them just to kill them to take the meat,” Warren said. “It appears they know what they are looking for.”

The horse is being described by law enforcement officials and in published news reports as a Thoroughbred, but Warren could not confirm whether the horse was actually registered as such. He said its name, lineage and age were not part of the reports available to him. He described it as a male horse used for some sort of sport or breeding purposes. It is possible that the department and some news outlets are using “Thoroughbred” as a generic descriptor for a well-bred sport horse.

Warren said his department has shared information with law enforcement counterparts 125 miles north in Marion County relating to the Nov. 29 death of a 21-year-old horse in Ocala. According to WKMG-TV, that horse was also singled out of a pasture near I-75, and it was found with “very clean-cut” wounds from what is believed to be a knife that “stripped both sides” of the horse’s body.

“We’ve talked to investigators in Marion County to compare notes,” Warren said. “There’s nothing we can relate to the media right now, but we started looking at some of the things they encountered on their case, and we look for some comparisons [to ours].”

And with regard to the possible connection to the unsolved 2015 theft and butchering of an imported sport horse in Palmetto, Warren said “It’s very similar in that it’s a very valuable horse, a prized horse that’s involved in competitions. Why is a horse like that targeted as opposed to other horses that are not?”

“We really don’t know in terms of where the meat ends up,” Warren told WTSP-TV earlier this week. “There is some type of demand for it. There is a market for it.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011.

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