Sunday, June 17, 2018
Public safety

Deputies seize malnourished horses from Land O'Lakes property

LAND O'LAKES — Deputies weren't surprised on Wednesday when they got another complaint about malnourished horses on Ellen Marie Marek's property.

"She's been on our radar for two and a half years," said Cpl. Gennis Folsom of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office agricultural crime unit.

They had visited Marek after receiving four complaints about neglect and six complaints about loose horses, they said. Each time, deputies said, she promised to do better. They even let her choose a veterinarian to instruct her on proper care.

But a visit this week proved to be the last straw.

Deputies went to the white house with green shutters at 9856 Pangola Loop. According to a sheriff's report, here's what they found:

• A foal, surrounded by buzzards, lying dead along a fence.

• Four horses and a pony in the back pasture. The horses' hip bones and ribs poking out from their hides. No food or water. Folsom, who had photos taken of the horses in February, described their weight loss as "extreme."

• A goat and a pig with no water in their pens.

• Five more horses in the front pasture. While not as underweight as the others, their weight loss was described as "noticeable." One horse had sores from having been saddled too long with a tight girth.

Deputies seized all the animals and took them to a pasture at the county jail, where they were given hay, grass and water. They also arrested Marek, 52, a registered nurse at Kindred Hospital Central Tampa, a long-term, acute care facility.

She faces one count of animal cruelty, a first-degree misdemeanor. Whether she faces more counts will be up to prosecutors, Folsom said.

"Our goal is not to put Ellen Marek in jail," he said. "It's to make sure these animals are cared for properly."

An unidentified person who answered Marek's phone said she wasn't available and had nothing to say. Kindred Hospital issued a statement Thursday saying Marek had been suspended pending the resolution of the charge.

"These allegations are unrelated to her employment with Kindred," the statement said.

On Thursday, the animals grazed on grass and nibbled from a large hay bale in the jail pasture. A nearby trough was filled with fresh water.

Folsom said they started eating immediately after being released from the horse trailer.

"The first horse only got his two front legs out before he stopped and started grazing," Folsom said. "We had to move him so we could get the others out."

A veterinarian is set to examine the animals today.

Folsom described the case as "moderate" and said the horses should return to normal weight in about five or six months.

The Sheriff's Office will seek a civil court order to keep the horses and then auction them.

"We sell them so we can recoup the costs of our investigation," he said.

Deputies haven't determined the reason the animals were so underweight. Maybe it was financial, Folsom speculated. He sees more of that in a down economy.

"It's certainly not from a lack of education," he said. "I have no doubt that she loved these animals. But she hasn't provided what Florida law requires."

Comments
Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

Motorcyclist and pedestrian die in Pasco crash

NEW PORT RICHEY — A motorcyclist and pedestrian both died in a crash Saturday night near Palmetto Road and U.S. 19, police reported.About 10:30 p.m., a St. Petersburg man, 41, was riding a 2012 Honda motorcycle north on the highway, according to the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

1 dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

TRENTON, N.J — Shooting broke out at an all-night art festival in Trenton, New Jersey, early Sunday, sending people stampeding from the scene and leaving one suspect dead and 20 people injured, a local prosecutor said. Many of the 20 injured were tre...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

Mazzaro’s Italian Market closed after Friday night warehouse fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Mazzaro’s Italian Market will be closed throughout the weekend after a warehouse fire broke out Friday.A St. Petersburg Police officer noticed smoke coming from the market at 22nd Ave. N around midnight Friday, said St. Petersburg F...
Published: 06/16/18
A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

A fentanyl death. A crackdown on opioid dealers. Will it help?

TAMPA — Loueita Hargens had known for years how her son Bradley Dykes would die. She had seen him cycle through drugs of choice, had lost track of the number of times he’d wound up in the hospital or prison.A recovering alcoholic herself, she cut him...
Published: 06/16/18
Deputies: Body found in Pasco lake is New Port Richey man, 74

Deputies: Body found in Pasco lake is New Port Richey man, 74

Deputies identified a body found in Frierson Lakes in Hudson on Thursday as a 74-year-old New Port Richey man.Kress Luebke’s kayak was seen overturned in the water on Thursday night, according to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.A resident living along Fri...
Updated: 6 hours ago
St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

St. Petersburg police make arrest 31 years after sexual assault

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a man Friday in connection with a 31-year-old sexual assault case and believe he’s connected to other unsolved cases from decades ago.Anthony Stokes, 56, faces a charge of armed sexual battery, according to St. Peters...
Published: 06/15/18
Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

Records detail Wrigley heir’s $480,000 betrayal by trusted employees

ODESSA — One day in the summer of 2014, Helen Rich spotted a Facebook post about an aging black Labrador in Kansas named Lady who badly needed a new home. The author and heir to the Wrigley gum fortune had recently lost her own Black lab. Rich decide...
Published: 06/15/18
Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

Hillsborough Hispanic women targeted in lottery scam

TAMPA — Maria Pena-Lebron, 83, was walking out of Fresco y Mas with her groceries in May when she was approached by a woman wearing a straw hat, who pleaded with her for help. The stranger claimed to be an undocumented immigrant and therefore unable ...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

Tampa fire captain demoted for stripping off shirt, daring homeless man to fight

TAMPA — Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Jeremy Finney was, by all accounts, a model firefighter — until he lost his cool. The outburst cost him two ranks.Finney has served nearly 16 years in the department and was a member of the Tactical Medical Response Te...
Published: 06/15/18
Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

Coaster that derailed in Daytona Beach had reported safety issues in 2017

DAYTONA BEACH — Two roller coaster riders fell 34 feet (10 meters) when their car derailed and was left dangling from the track, and firefighters used ladders to pull eight others to safety high above the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. "The front car which...
Published: 06/15/18