Horse Abuse Suspects Behind Bars

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By Bryan Navarro

YREKA, Calif. — Four people are now behind bars, suspected of abuse that ended in several horses’ deaths in Northern California.

Phones have been ringing in the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department for the past three months. They say the public has been actively interested in holding suspects responsible for deadly animal abuse. Police believe they now have their suspects.

Two men were arrested Thursday, father and son Benigno Eduardo Villegas and Benigno Leon Villegas. This morning, two family members, turned themselves in: Maria Franco-Dominguez, and Alma Villegas. The four are charged with a combination of felony animal abuse and dissuading a witness. Neighbors reported horses being malnourished and emaciated.

Even though deputies stepped tried to help, two of the three horses died – that was back in early April, but the arrests happened Thursday. Officials with the sheriff’s department call the investigation long, and exhausting.

All four people were arraigned Friday and pleaded not guilty. The third horse was taken to a temporary home and is doing much better now. The sheriff says this case is proof that intimidating, threatening, or assaulting a victim or witness will not go un-prosecuted in Siskiyou County.