By Dave Russell
A Tuckasegee man is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the deaths of his five miniature horses. Bill Mathis, the animals’ owner, contends the horses were poisoned last Wednesday near the end of Sols Creek Church Road.
Mathis said he can’t afford a $250 autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, but he feels certain it was poison.
“A white substance was running out of their noses and all over the ground,” he said. “And five horses don’t just die all at one time of natural causes. When you see them on the ground and somebody has told you for three or four months that they’re going to get poisoned if you don’t get rid of them, you have to know what it was.”
There has been controversy among a few of Mathis’ neighbors regarding the horses, he said.
“Probably 90 percent of the neighborhood comes by and some feed the little ponies and pet them, but we had a few that were just mean people and they didn’t like them,” he said.
Threats received last summer led him to move the horses to his son’s house, he said.
“I had 10 goats and had heard rumors of threats and then I had to bury 10 of them in one day last spring,” he said. “Then I got the horses, trying to keep my pastures down. I’ve had a stroke and am not able to mow.”
Three of the horses were mares, ready to give birth within the month, he said. Two younger horses also died.
“We saved one baby,” he said. “It really wasn’t eating well and it was still suckling, so it didn’t get any of the poison.”
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded, he said.
“My granddaughter loves those horses to death,” he said. “She has been with them every day, they lay in her lap. Her little stallion, Spirit, was about 9 months old, and it killed him and that was a bad day for all of us. It’s one of the worst things I have ever dealt with.”
Mathis’ ex-daughter-in-law, Jennifer Mathis, lives nearest the barn at the end of Sols Creek Church Road where the horses were allegedly poisoned.
“At about 3:30 or 4 in the morning her dogs started screaming,” he said. “It’s real remote, at the end of the road. She called my son, Eric, and told him about the dogs.”
Eric Mathis went into the barn about 6:30 a.m. to find two of the horses dead.
“By about 10:30, all five were dead,” he said. “Two of them were in the barn and three outside. They were all within 15 feet of each other.”
Mathis had a camera pointing toward the barn. It captured an image, but the figure was not clear enough to recognize, he said.
“I tracked where somebody trampled the weeds and came in where they could not really be seen,” he said. “I think it will be solved.”
The horses were valued at between $1,200 and $1,800 each, he said.
“The whole neighborhood has missed them,” he said.
Mathis plans to get more horses – and more cameras, he said.
“We’ve got some people who are going to donate us some animals,” he said.
Stray dogs last year tore into a cage and killed two of his three Flemish giant rabbits. He is pursuing legal action in that case, he said.