Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Long-Standing Animal Cruelty Case

Two horses shot in the head at vet clinic
Vero Beach, FL (US)

Incident Date: Thursday, Jan 11, 2007
County: Indian River

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: John Christopher Tennant, Jr.

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for shooting two horses at a veterinary clinic in Vero Beach, Florida on January 11.

According to the Indian River County Sheriff's Office, an employee of the East Coast Equine Clinic found two horses shot in their heads in the pasture behind the clinic on 69th Street on the morning of January 11. Authorities believe the shooting took place between midnight and 8 a.m. One horse, belonging to the clinic's owner died. The second horse belongs to the son of the clinic owner and is undergoing intensive veterinary care.

The Indian River County Sheriff's Office Agricultural Unit is investigating the case. They ask anyone in the vicinity who may have heard a gunshot or noticed anything out of the ordinary at the time of the crime to contact them immediately. The Agricultural Unit can be reached at 772-569-6700.
Case Updates
St. Edwards School student Robbie Biehl, 10, never wants to meet Indian River County jail inmate John Tennant.

The reason: two .22-caliber bullets, which county sheriff's investigators allege Tennant, 23, inexplicably fired over a rural pasture fence late one night two years ago, killing one horse and severely injuring Robbie's horse.

From what investigators have found, Tennant, who still is in jail awaiting trial, was a stranger who happened upon the horses in the middle of the night on Jan. 11, 2007 about a quarter mile off 69th Street, according to reports.

Now the boy's formerly friendly horse Sonny shies away from people, standing at the back of his stall. The animal gets infections in the right nasal cavity where bullet fragments are lodged, according to Robbie's mother, veterinarian Valerie Biehl.

Sonny is retired from being ridden, or serving as a launching board for Robbie's cannonballs into the ocean surf.

Tennant has been in jail under a $55,000 bail following his arrest Jan. 18, 2007 on animal cruelty charges. He also is charged with another crime that night: felony criminal mischief in connection with bullets fired into an unoccupied private security vehicle in a subdivision development off 58th Avenue. He has pleaded not guilty.

His case is next scheduled to come up for court review on Feb. 13, court records show.

The maximum penalty, on all charges, is about 45 years in jail, said Assistant State Attorney Adam Chrzan.

During the past two years, Tennant's defense attorney, former state attorney Robert Stone, has repeatedly had the case continued. Reasons have ranged from interviewing witnesses to scheduling conflicts.

Prosecutors have offered a plea deal, including an undisclosed amount of time in state prison and probation.

Biehl opposes that. She wants a jury trial. "I'll have the courtroom full" of people, she said.

According to court records, the two horses were each shot once in the forehead around 2:45 a.m. and left to die. One was found dead in the field in the morning. Robbie's mother followed a 75-yard-long blood trail to find Sonny bleeding in a stall.

Investigators used a truck tire print from the scene to track down Tennant. In his pickup truck were empty bullet casings, reports show. One of Tennant's acquaintances told officers Tennant boasted of shooting some horses. And, under questioning by an investigator, he said he shot the horses, court records state.

"There was no reason or rationale for what he (Tennant) did," Chrzan said. From the state's point of view, "It was senseless and ridiculous."
Source: TCPalm.Com - Feb 3, 2009
Update posted on Feb 3, 2009 - 3:09PM
A 21-year-old Vero Beach man was arrested Thursday and charged with two felony counts of animal cruelty for allegedly shooting two horses � killing one of them � at a pasture near Winter Beach on Jan. 11.

John Christopher Tennant Jr., of the 4400 block of 61st Court, was arrested by county Sheriff's Office detectives at the Sheriff's Office, where Tennant allegedly confessed to shooting the horses while they stood behind a pasture fence.

Tennant was being held in the county jail without bond Thursday night.

The horses were shot between their eyes at a pasture at East Coast Equine on 69th Street. One of the horses, a paint about 18 years old and named Sonny, is expected to recover, but a 6-year-old thoroughbred named Woody died.

Tennant allegedly told Detective Todd Finnegan he used his .22 Magnum pistol to shoot the horses.

"(Tennant) never said why he shot them," Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Jeff Luther said Thursday.

The exact time of the shootings wasn't immediately available Thursday night, but authorities believe the horses were shot sometime between midnight and 8 a.m. Jan. 11.

Thursday night, Biehl said she was very grateful the Sheriff's Office arrested the suspect.

"We'll all be sleeping better tonight," she said of her and her family. "I'm just so glad they caught him. Who knows what else this person would have done? I'm so impressed with our Sheriff's Office and the Ranch and Grove (Unit). They never stopped working on this."

Biehl said she doesn't know Tennant.

"I never heard of him and never met him," she said. "I'm just glad he's off the streets for the safety of everyone in Indian River County and their horses."

She said Sonny is bleeding from his nose, but still walks up to anyone near his stall in his old, friendly way.

"He's a wonderful, amazing horse," Biehl said.

According to the Sheriff's Office, detectives found tire tracks at the crime scene along with an empty Budweiser beer can. After visiting several stores, detectives confirmed the tracks were made by Super Swamper TSL Radial tires.

After further investigation, detectives compiled a list of people owning this type of tire and later found Tennant's vehicle � a 1997 Ford F150 � parked behind a Gifford business where Tennant worked, according to the affidavit.

"The vehicle had tires that matched the tracks at the crime scene and had empty Budweiser beer cans in the (truck) bed," according to the affidavit.

Detectives then began talking with some of Tennant's friends. One of his friends reportedly told detectives Tennant went to his residence about 11 a.m. Jan. 11 and Tennant said he had called in sick to work, according to the Sheriff's Office.

While driving around together later that day, Tennant allegedly bragged to his friend and his friend's girlfriend about shooting some horses and a vehicle earlier that morning, the affidavit stated.

Luther said in the early morning of Jan. 11, Tennant was driving alone in the 5300 block of 58th Avenue when he slowed down and fired several shots at an empty Wackenhut security vehicle parked at a residential development.

Tennant then drove to 69th Street and got out of his truck to go to the bathroom near East Coast Equine, Luther said.

"He had been drinking all day," Luther said. "He saw the horses standing there and he shot them."

He said more charges are pending. Sheriff's Office officials received several tips in the case from local residents and residents from elsewhere in Florida and outside of the state, Luther said.

"We're looking into whether anyone is eligible for a reward" being offered by various groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, Luther said.

Source: TCPalm - Jan 19, 2007
Update posted on Jan 19, 2007 - 9:43PM

A man accused of shooting horses in Indian River County blames beer on his troubles.

John Tennant, Jr. told police he had two cases of beer before driving to a stable and shooting two thoroughbred horses. One of them, a prized breeding horse, died. The 16-year-old thoroughbred, named Woody, was worth $65,000.

The other horse, named Sonny, survived the shooting.

Tennant apparently told a friend about the shootings. He was booked into the Indian River County jail on felony animal cruelty charges.

Source: WFTV - Jan 19, 2007
Update posted on Jan 19, 2007 - 4:14PM

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