Horse shot, killed near Zebulon

amoody@newsobserver.comMarch 21, 2014 

— Investigators are searching for the person who shot and killed a horse early on the morning of March 14 in the same equestrian community where six horses were stabbed in December 2012.

The horse, a recently retired 15-year-old Appaloosa gelding named Westley, was discovered dead by an employee of a local farm about 8:30 a.m. in a pasture that fronts Mitchell Mill Road near N.C. 96 north of Zebulon. The horse belonged to Stephanie Carter, owner and trainer at nearby Storybrooke Farms.

Westley was more to Carter than just a lesson horse in her hunter/jumper program – he was the first lesson horse she ever owned and the animal she built her business around.

“When I got him, he was a rescue. He hadn’t had a whole lot of training at all and he really didn’t trust people at all,” Carter said. “I had to teach him everything he knew, and the relationship we had became quite close.”

The animal was last known to be secure the previous day about 5:30 p.m., according to a report filed by the Wake County Sheriff’s Office. Kimberly Cummings, who runs a nearby boarding facility and leases the pasture where the incident took place, said people in the community heard gunshots about 5 a.m.

Cummings said Westley had been in that particular pasture for only about a month. One other horse was being kept in the pasture when the crime was committed.

“He was just as sweet as he could be, just easy going,” Cummings said. “He would come up to little kids in the neighborhood trying to give him (a treat) – there was not a mean bone in him.”

Richard Johnson, chief of operations for the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, said a bullet that was recovered from the scene would be taken to a state crime lab to determine the type of weapon used in the shooting.

“We’ve got three investigators working on this and are very aware of a similar incident taking place about a year and a half ago in the same area,” Johnson said. “We’re open to the fact (the two incidents) could be related, but we’re not going to discuss whether it is or not.”

Johnson referred to the night of Dec. 1, 2012, when six mares were stabbed at two different locations within the same community. None of the horses died as a result of that incident, which is still under investigation.

Andrea Hayward, the owner of three of the horses that were stabbed, said she “just started shaking” when she saw law enforcement in the area again after the recent shooting.

“When you see that, it was literally ‘What happened to mine?’ ” Hayward said. “This has got to stop. This is just insane. This is just crazy.”

Members of the community plan to install surveillance cameras, Cummings said. They are also working to raise a $5,000 reward through the North Carolina Horse Council for anyone with information that leads to an arrest in the shooting.

Anyone interested in donating to the reward can call the council at 919-854-1990 and reference the reward fund. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Wake County Sheriff’s Office at 919-856-6800.

“More than anything, we just want someone to come forward to give some information so we can stop this, so it doesn’t keep happening,” Carter said.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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