Horse News

Slaughter of Show Horse in Florida called ‘Murder’ by Horse’s Owners

Story of the Bradenton Herald

“We have never had a case like this that I can remember,”

Police tape surrounds the stall where a prized show horse was stolen and slaughtered sometime late Saturday or early Sunday at Imperial Farms Equestrian Center on Gillet Road in Manatee County. RICHARD DYMOND/Bradenton Herald

Police tape surrounds the stall where a prized show horse was stolen and slaughtered sometime late Saturday or early Sunday at Imperial Farms Equestrian Center on Gillet Road in Manatee County. RICHARD DYMOND/Bradenton Herald

PALMETTO  FL– The distraught owners of a 12-year-old prize show jumper from Europe named Phedras de Blondel are calling the horse’s killing and butchering in Manatee County “a murder.”

The 1,300-pound animal, recently purchased by Debbie Stephens of Imperial Farms Equestrian Center in rural Palmetto from an owner in Germany, was furtively led from his stall at Imperial Farms by someone between 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 6:45 a.m. Sunday, taken to a pen in the back of the 27-acre farm, killed and expertly butchered, said Debbie’s husband, Steve Stephens, 64, who has been the owner of Imperial Farms since the early 1960s.

Debbie Stephens currently holds the all-time women’s high jump record with a 7-feet, 8-inch show jump. She is a passionate competitor, and the fully-trained Phedras, whose value was estimated at $200,000, was to be her future superstar show jumper, Steve Stephens said.

Steve Stephens jumped 7 feet, 1 inch in 1968 at Madison Square Garden in New York while a Palmetto High School student.

Besides being a farm owner, he is a rider, show manager, coach, trainer, judge and course designer. He was co-designer of the show jumping courses for the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

Phedras de Blondel was a famous enough show jumper that the horse can be seen on YouTube videos.

The perpetrator will be charged with occupied burglary, grand theft and cruelty to animals, Dave Bristow of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.

Bristow said a full investigation of the grisly crime scene was ongoing Sunday afternoon, but no suspects had been identified.

Investigators believe the perpetrator was someone wanting horse meat, knew the farm had horses and took Phedras because he was a big, heavy horse, Bristow said.

“We don’t think they wanted this particular horse other than for its size,” Bristow said. “We are hoping someone saw something unusual, an unusual car or truck in the area. The farm is not that far from the highway.

“We have never had a case like this that I can remember,” Bristow added. “It’s grisly. There has been a case in the Palm Beach County area involving a slaughterhouse, but nothing like that here.”

Debbie Stephens was too upset to talk with reporters about Phedras on Sunday afternoon.

Imperial Farms is located in the 10000 block of Gillet Road, near Moccasin Wallow Road, and is equipped to board 32 show jumper horses, who get three meals a day. It has a treadmill for horses, helpers who wash and brush them and also has a jumping practice area.

The pen where the horse was butchered was said to be about 10-feet off Moccasin Wallow Road.

The ill-fated Phedras, who possessed his own passport, had just been flown into the United States on Friday, passed through quarantine perfectly and had only been in the country three days before he was killed, Steve Stephens said,

Horse discovered missing

Phedras was discovered missing at 7 a.m. Sunday when he was not in its stall at feeding time.

When found hours later in the back pen, the horse’s legs were gone, and basically just the head and neck remained intact, Stephens said.

“The horse looks like he was butchered out for slaughter after he was killed,” Stephens said. “This was a murder. If I had to make a guess, it was someone who knows how to hunt, like hunt deer, and knew how to take a large animal’s life quickly. We have no enemies. We have no idea who did this.

“We want to talk about this and get it in the light so our neighbors who have animals can be aware that this happened,” added Stephens.

“These people came to butcher this horse out,” Stephens said. “They didn’t just come with those sharp knives for nothing. They had all intentions of doing what they did. They knew what they were going to do. This was a horse farm. I don’t think he was targeted specifically. Maybe they went by size. ‘Here’s a big one. Let’s take this one. We have more animal.’

“But to go to the trouble of taking him out of his stall, leading him down a path, taking him to the far property that is sort of out of sight, and then do what they did,” Stephens added.

Although there was a security camera set up in the stall area, Stephens said he wasn’t sure yet what it captured but he said he will now beef up security.

He advises his neighbors with horses to do the same.

Phedras’ stall, as well as all the stalls, don’t have a lock because horses have to be quickly removed in case of a fire or other emergency.

“In all our years here since the 1960s we have never had an intrusion,” Stephens said.

After a search of the farm did not turn up Phedras, the Stephenses called the sheriff’s office and began searching the surrounding areas.

“We looked around our facility first to see if he was just loose and running in the back of our barn with the other horses and then we called the sheriff’s office,” Steve Stephens said.

Debbie Stephens, out patrolling in her vehicle, saw a broken fence in the pen on the property and called a female farmhand to go and check. As it turns out, the perpetrators made entrance into the pen through that fence, Steve Stephens believes.

“When the girl got down there, she found the horse,” Stephens said. “She called my wife and said, ‘You can’t believe this.’ She was emotionally just blown apart. She didn’t know what to think. She had never seen anything like it before.'”

The Stephens, not wanting to disturb the crime scene, waited for investigators to come before going down to the site of the carcass.

“We went down there with them, and that’s the first I saw him,” Stephens said.

The sheriff’s office is urging anyone with information on Phedras to call 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.

18 replies »

  1. I really hope these butchers were caught on the security cameras. .this is atrocious. .heartfelt sympathy and condolences to everyone impacted to by this horrible act..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This horse was murdered because Pro Horse Slaughter printed eating horsemeat is cultural. The choice of horses was intentional. I definitely do Not believe it was accidental or just bc of size. Were close to Halloween and the Fear and strange idea of eating a famous jumper probably made them believe in strange magic. We have to make clear this has NEVER been a Cultural food. WHAT is Cultural is defining what America does or does Not do. We are the melting pot for all to come by we do Not have to accept their traditions. In other countries they eat zoo animals America doesnt sell zoo animals for food. The press and law enforcement need to not act so naive in this story because they choose a horse for many reasons…accessibility and strange ideas of what is gained. The rest of horses in Florida are selected from craigslist or as pets in yards etc….so to just wander into a Substantially different type of farm and kill is a totally different issue . The types of crimes should have increased penalties.


    • I cannot agree more. If they were simply hungry, they could have stolen a cow or a sheep or a couple chickens from a farm or even pillage discarded food from supermarkets (they throw tons of food everyday). They say it is because religion but that’s a sorry excuse to get away with their psycho tastes:

      Cuba has been historically a walking economic distortion, unable to produce their own food or produce anything to sustain their own economy, mainly because of the cronies that ruled the island for the last 400 years. The Soviets sent there over decades zillions of tons of canned horse meat from equines rounded up in Kazhakstan (so they had a taste for it), and when the Soviet Union collapsed, they stopped pouring in food, money and equipment at the Cuban regime causing people to restort to all sorts crimes such as this or eating cats (one of the guys arrested last week admitted he liked cat meat). And this is not a question of communism vs capitalism, they were already as bad before Castro.

      But the worst part is that, after leaving behind that misery, they resort to the same backward ways because “that’s what they did back there”. Combine that with the uttermost ignorance and belief in superstition (which is not religion) and all sorts of quack theories and you have this. So, this is not a question of immigration vs no immigration either (as an example there are Americans like Tom Davis, David Duquette or any of the Wallis’ acolytes that wouldn’t have a single problem doing this themselves rain or shine), it is a question of education, ethics and personal integrity… which seem to be scarce these days.

      The Florida’s antislaughter law is actually strong enough and has provisions to cancel residence permits. However, the problem is actually getting this people caught to begin with… and I would not be surprised if there are Americans also involved in this trade.

      Law enforcement usually complains they don’t have resources or that they don’t have specially trained staff to address this threat… and I suspect no advanced forensics are done either. This needs to be treated like if a person was murdered: use all forensics techniques available, find the responsibles no matter how long or how far they hide, and impose an exemplary punishment to warn others that they will not get away with it.

      The moment we signal them no one of these crimes will go unpunished, that every single person involved will be caught and processed, and that it is not worth to flush their lives down the toilet for a mounthful of horsemeat, the crimes will hopefully cease.

      And perhaps we should also start demanding from our legal system the same for BLM, DOI and all the cronies and corrupt politicians supporting horse slaughter and wild horse eradication, which are by far the largest equine killers in the country.


  3. That poor family. Florida has really lost its shine nowadays, hasn’t it – an overdeveloped mess of a state now. There are so many charges this lowlife or lowlives can be charged with, I hope they get them.


  4. It says in the article “we have never had a case like this befroe”. It was just a few years back were people in Florida were sleeping in their barns with guns for this same reason.
    The raid on three slaughter farms should have woke folks in Florida up. Their customers are going to get the meat somewhere. From the reports of the meat they were selling I would say ALL pet owners had better beware.
    Remember our president opened the borders with Cuba, and just wait until Halal gets here, we ain’t seen nothing yet.


  5. We need to add another amendment to this prosecution if there is one. I am not a discriminating person. However, I am sick and tired of foreign people coming to this country searching for a better life and thinking they can bring old country ways. More and more of this happening WE don’t eat Horse meat here for numerous reasons. Thus cruelty just shows a total disregard for our laws and humanity. I live in a residential area where foreign people bought. In the middle of the day neighbors heard screams if Distress from goats who were in their garage. The police were called and found they were in the process of slaughtering two goats. We all were appauld!! They told the police that they were pets, yet they found hides of two other baby goats. These people should be immediately sent back to their country of origin after serving time in prison. We need to send a very clear message that it is not OK to do that in our country where ever that may be. I’m tired of the law covering up the torture and inhumane treatment of animals for religious purposes. It’s totally sick and should never be tolerated. I could relate other stories about things related to traditions from other countries. We do not slaughter, trip, deform or mutilate animals in this country for any reason. How sad for this woman losing her Horse in this matter.


  6. I certainly said this before not on this site but other sites the borders are sitting wide open South America sends kids by the hundreds toward the US border with Mexico knowing they will be let in ICE actually delivered a lot of them to their illegal relatives living here in the US instead of arresting the illegal relatives or parents handed over the kiddies and drove off. Obama has gutted the immigration system the US had in place for decades. It wasn’t enforced all that well but at least it was better than nothing. Between Obama and Holder they have basically destroyed our immigration system. The drug cartels have set up businesses in every state they do as they please. There is known terrorist training camps just across the Mexican border with
    Texas also suspected training camps located on private property here in several states. I have some advice go to and sign up they have thousands of members including me and read what they do to try to force these crooked politicians to try to control immigration into the US and stop some of the worst of it. This horse being slaughtered is just the tip of the iceberg.


  7. Horse slaughter is well-known in Florida, and people still don’t lock up their horses? Especially at night? That’s idiotic. Of course, it’s the horses that suffer. Is this any different better/worse than those who have their horses stolen and never see them again not knowing what happened (shipped to Canada/Mexico)? Or dogs stolen to become bait dogs? Or cats taken as bait? What about cows, sheep rabbits, slaughtered for your dinner? Really, is ANY animal slaughter acceptable? Meat-eaters are encouraged to answer first.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I read a comment somewhere along the line that because it was carried out so efficiently, could it have been an employee? I look forward to hearing of an arrest.


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