Police: Three horses were sold, not stolen

Apr. 26—Three horses reported missing from a Vernon Township farm on April 15 actually were removed by their rightful owner and sold, according to Meadville Police Department.

The farm's caretakers initially contacted police in mid-February to report the horses — a black gelding, a brown gelding and a black mare — as missing from the North Watson Run Road farm, located about 7 miles west of Meadville. The caretakers contacted police again April 15, saying the animals had been taken.

"This past weekend is when everything came to light," Chief Michael Stefanucci said of the investigation by Officer Luke Ohmer who handled both the initial investigation in February and the April 15 alleged theft.

It was determined the horses, in fact, were removed by their owner after Feb. 14 and sold with proper paperwork, Ohmer told The Meadville Tribune on Thursday.

The horses' owner provided legal documentation proving the animals were rightfully his — and not the caretakers living at the farm, the officer added.

The investigation found that after the initial sale of the horses, the animals were sold two more times — with each sale having proper paperwork, Ohmer said.

The last sale involving one of the horses was tracked to West Virginia, where West Virginia State Police assisted in the investigation and found paperwork was in order.

The owner of the horses removed them following their escape from a pasture at the farm on Feb. 14, according to Ohmer.

The animals were able to leave the pasture on Feb. 14 after a fence post and fencing in one area had been knocked over by livestock, Ohmer said. The damaged fence post and fencing had not been repaired when police returned to the farm on April 15 for the investigation into the alleged theft.

"He (the rightful owner) had documentation that when he bought the farm that all the equipment, unborn livestock, livestock on the farm — producing and non-producing belonged to him," Ohmer said. "He provided the documentation. Everyone had signed the document and it said it was legal and binding."

The case has been closed by city police and any additional action would be a civil court matter, Stefanucci said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.