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Follow up on Horses Shot in Chickasaw County, Mississippi


2018/04/03

By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D., Editor

Last November (2017), we published an article by Tara Priest about nine horses who were shot and killed in Chickasaw County, Mississippi. The horses had escaped from their confines and had wandered onto a neighbor’s land. Eleven animals, including one mule and ten horses were found shot on September 19, 2017. Two horses survived, but nine died of their wounds.

In March, 2018, one of our readers, going through back issues, contacted us and asked us to follow up on this story. Here’s the latest we have learned about this act of gun violence.

We contacted the owner of the shot horses, Dalton Christian of Van Vleet, Mississippi, who told us that, so far, “nothing has happened.” Investigations have been done, he said, and “The law knows who did it – four people – but they say they have no evidence. It was supposed to have been turned over to the grand jury this month (March), but he was told the DA [District Attorney] ‘won’t fool with it.’” He has been told that the landowners [where the horses were shot] “want to settle” with him. Christian said that he was told that the suspected shooters were the landowners and two farm workers.

Christian said that two game wardens came to the site and reported that over 100 rounds were fired, and that they killed the mule first. We were unable to contact the game wardens for more information.

Christian further said that he was told, right after the shot horses were found, to get his veterinarian to take a bullet(s) from the horses. “But the county had already buried the horses with the county’s equipment,” he said, before he could get to them. He said the investigator J.R. Kilgore had buried them the next morning and had locked the gate to the property to keep people out.

Christian said that J.R. Kilgore was the first investigator of the incident, along with County Coroner Michael Fowler. Present investigators are Dwight Parker and Terry Ward with the Chickasaw Sheriff’s Department.

We contacted Dwight Parker, the current investigator on the case. He said the case was to be presented to the Mississippi Third District Grand Jury on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Parker said in a follow-up phone call that the grand jury did not return a “true bill” Wednesday, on the basis that there was not enough evidence to return indictments against the four persons suspected of shooting the horses. That means that no indictments were handed down. He told us that investigators could not find bullets at the scene and that they didn’t know what size and type of guns were used. He said he was not the original investigator, but came on about 1 ½ months after the incident.

Mississippi law defines the penalties for “malicious injury to livestock:”

§ 97-41-15. Malicious or mischievous injury to livestock; penalty; restitution.
(1) Any person who shall maliciously, either out of a spirit of revenge or wanton cruelty, or who shall mischievously kill, maim or wound, or injure any livestock, or cause any person to do the same, shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction, shall be committed to the custody of the State Department of Corrections for not less than twelve (12) months nor more than five years, and fined an amount not less than One Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($1,500.00), nor more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00).

(2) In addition to any such fine or imprisonment which may be imposed, the court shall order that restitution be made to the owner of any animal listed in subsection (1) of this section. The measure for restitution in money shall be the current replacement value of such loss and/or the actual veterinarian fees, special supplies, loss of income and other costs incurred as a result of actions in violation of subsection (1) of this section.

(3) For purposes of this section, the term "livestock" shall mean horses, cattle, swine, sheep and other domestic animals produced for profit.

In a press release March 22, 2018, Doll Stanley, with In Defense of Animals, stated: “The herd had wandered onto a neighboring property. It was later discovered that a fallen tree took part of a fence down, letting the horses and donkeys wander onto the neighboring property where workers were harvesting corn. Seven of the horses and the two donkeys were killed. Two seriously wounded horses made it home, but several mortally wounded horses perished; one had been shot five times in the face and head.
 
“Authorities had the animals buried the following day, frustrating the Christian family as the numerous bullets that tore through the animals’ bodies had not been retrieved for evidence,” Stanley wrote.

In a statement last year to the Chickasaw Journal, Chickasaw County Sheriff James Meyers said nine of the shot horses died of their wounds. “They were shot with a high-capacity, high-powered rifle that made a lot of noise. The horses had gotten out and apparently found a cornfield that had been cut and were in there,” said Meyers. “Some of those horses were show three or four times.”

Meyers said, “To slaughter these animals like this – it is a felony – if we make an arrest and can get a conviction.
If anyone has further evidence about this crime, please contact Doll Stanley, Director at Justice for Animals: (662) 809-4483 or Dwight Parker at the Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Office: (662) 456-2339.

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