Investigation underway after dead horses found on Winchester property

WINCHESTER — Following two years of complaints and ongoing investigation, Riverside County Department of Animal Services Monday served a search warrant at a Winchester property. The warrant service uncovered a “house of horrors” for the horses at the property, according to one official.

During the warrant service, officials discovered the remains of three horses that animal control officers later described as “emaciated,” saying the conditions the deceased and other horses had been kept in were “deplorable.” The department’s officers offered many times to assist the woman by transferring the horses to a reputable equine rescue organization, according to animal control officials, who said, “Each offer was declined.”

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Riverside County Department of Animal Services Lt. John Stephens and Sgt. Lesley Huennekens, along with other animal control and law enforcement officials, descended on the Winchester property on Van Gaale Ln., Monday, Dec. 17.

“The property on Van Gaale Lane, just east of Winchester Road, is one familiar with Animal Services officers,” animal control officials later explained. “The owner of the horses was not complying with recommendations by officers for proper care and nutrition for the horses.”

When the owner of the horses, who has not been publicly identified, refused to work with animal control officials, follow their advice and recommendations, or even allow them to complete a full inspection of the horses and property, officials obtained the search warrant.

Officials serving the warrant soon found the remains of three horses, including two geldings and a mare. Officials described two of the deceased horses as a specialized breed called Pony of the Americas and a third, unknown breed.

“The horses will be transported to a state lab and necropsies will be performed to determine a cause of death,” according to animal control officials.

While searching the woman’s property, animal control officers determined the property lacked any proper feed for horses, according to Sgt. Huennekens, who later described the bodies of the horses as “emaciated.”

“The conditions of the horses and the barn where they were being kept were deplorable,” Sgt. Huennekens continued.

“It’s been more than two years of this,” Sgt. Huennekens explained. “And there were always different horses each time we attempted to visit.”

The woman has not yet been arrested, but an investigation into the horses’ treatment and deaths is ongoing, Riverside County Department of Animal Services spokesman John Welsh explained.

The case remains an open investigation.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information is available.


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, moved last year to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 15 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.

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