Deputies trying to track down men in horse slaughter case

Debbie Stephens has high hopes.

"This was just like, wow," she said.

Detectives from the Manatee County Sheriff's office released pictures of two men and a van.

They aren't considered persons of interest, but detectives hope the men may know what happened to her prized horse, Phedras De Blondel.

"You could certainly try and put the puzzle parts together and what could have happened, but you know it's [about] finding the people," said Stephens.

Stephens had just bought the show horse in Europe.

Two days after arriving at her Palmetto farm, he was found slaughtered near the interstate.  Detectives believe he was targeted because of his size and for his meat.

"It is so horrific as to how this horse was killed to eat its meat. I think it's the severity of the crime and what the people did and the horse suffered so much," Stephens said.

Surveillance cameras at a Circle K store at the intersection of U.S. Highway 41 and Moccasin Wallow Road captured images of two men and a van.

They were in the store on Sunday, October 25th at 5:00 a.m. It fits the window when detectives believe the slaughter occurred.

"The time frame works, they are in a little bit of a different type vehicle. We are just trying to generate leads here," said Dave Bristow with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators said it will take time and they are hoping for the right tips to come in.

"We said from the get-go, it will be very very difficult to solve this case. We are working it hard, but it is not an easy case to solve," Bristow said.

Stephens is hopeful one tip will lead to more and will eventually land whoever killed her horse in jail.

"It is a great day. It's a step in the right direction and it's more than a glimmer of hope," she said.

Anyone with information on the subjects or anything else relating to the case are asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011 ext. 2542 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS. Crime Stoppers, in conjunction with the owners of the horse, are offering a reward of up to $30,000 for information leading to the arrest
and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the crime.