Thursday, September 23, 2004

Owners want horse exhumed for tests

Second court request made

By Murray Evans
The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - The owners of a champion show horse again have asked a federal judge to allow the exhumation of the animal so that forensic tests can be conducted on the remains.

Joe and Sally Jackson's second request to exhume Wild-Eyed and Wicked is contained in papers filed in U.S. District Court last Friday. The horse is buried at Double D Ranch in Versailles, where he was boarded and trained by the farm's owners, Dena and Dave Lopez.

Wild-Eyed and Wicked, the winner of the saddlebred industry's Triple Crown in 2000 and 2001, was one of five horses at Double D Ranch in June 2003 who had nearly identical circular wounds on the back of their left front pastern - the short bone between the hoof and ankle - where someone apparently injected them with a still-unknown substance.

Three horses, including Wild-Eyed and Wicked, an 11-year-old gelding, were euthanized that July because of the injuries. Kentucky State Police have named no suspects in the case, although it remains under investigation.

On Aug. 13, District Judge Joseph Hood denied a similar request by the Jacksons, citing the ongoing investigation. But Hood said he might reconsider if the Overland Park, Kan., couple could provide assurance that Woodford County Commonwealth's Attorney Gordon Shaw, who would prosecute the case should charges be brought, would have no objections to the exhumation.

Hood also told the Jacksons they must provide testimony from veterinarians that blood and tissue samples taken from Wild-Eyed and Wicked before the horse's death aren't available for testing.

Last week's filing included affidavits from Shaw, three veterinarians who treated the horse, a veterinarian who performed tests on the horse's tissue and three other veterinarians who said forensic tests on the bones would provide useful information for the investigation.

Shaw said in his affidavit that "it is my opinion that such an exhumation of Wicked's remains, together with appropriate forensic testing, would not hamper or obstruct the on-going KSP criminal investigation, and I believe that it may be of benefit, to assist my office and the KSP in the conduct of the investigation."

John Cummins, Carol McLeod and Ric Redden, veterinarians who treated Wild-Eyed and Wicked, all said in their affidavits that they never conducted tests on tissue samples from the horse and do not possess any such samples.

George Maylin of Cornell University, a leading expert on equine drug testing and pharmacology, said in his affidavit that he tested samples taken from scabs from the wounds of four of the horses that were attacked, including Wild-Eyed and Wicked, but that the tissue samples provided weren't viable for testing.

The Jacksons have been involved in legal wranglings with the Lopezes since January, when the Lopezes sued the Jacksons for $13,172.90 - costs the Lopezes said they incurred in caring for the Jacksons' horses. The Jacksons countersued.

Bill Rambicure, an attorney for the Lopezes, said during the August hearing they wanted to know what tests would be run if the horse were exhumed and what those tests might show before they would agree to exhumation.

The Lopezes have claimed they had an oral agreement with the Jacksons to bury Wild-Eyed and Wicked at Double D Ranch, which the Jacksons dispute.

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