A tragedy reminiscent of the movie "The Godfather" hit the farm of a renowned Florida equestrian in Palmetto, Florida.
Phedras de Blondel, 12-year-old chestnut gelding horse and prized Grand Prix level show jumper, was discovered to be missing from his stable at 7 a.m. Oct. 25. His body was later discovered slaughtered in a pasture at Imperial Farms Equestrian Center, where he lived.
According to authorities, Phedras was led away from his stable somewhere between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Oct 24 to 25. When the thief got the horse far enough away from the main compound, a knife was plunged into the rib cage of the horse, puncturing the aorta. When the horse died, it's carcass was reportedly cut up by an "expert butcher."
“He had been filleted,” Debbie Stephens, the horse's owner, told The New York Times. “The slices were so deliberate and so well done that the moment you saw it: This was a professional.” The horse was discovered missing when one of Stephens' workers went to the stable to feed him grain. Upon arrival the worker found the latch was bolted but unchained.
The horse was recently purchased by Stephens and just arrived to the farm on Oct. 23. He was set to run in a Grand Prix competition in Wellington Florida, in November while Stephens developed the skills of another, younger horse. Stephens is an acclaimed Grand Prix show jumping competitor, setting an outdoor high jump record of 7 feet 8 inches in 1983.
The killing of Phedras is a new element in a string of recent crimes involving the killings of stolen livestock for meat in Florida, says The New York Times. Most of the crimes involved horses being stolen and slaughtered in the southeastern part of the state. But Phedras' killing was the first time a horse had been butchered in that county, according to Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the county sheriff's office.
Authorities are now investigating whether there are links to other cases, or if there is a growing black market for horse meat.
It is illegal to slaughter horses for meat in Florida. The sheriff's report said that the case is also being treated as a burglary and grand theft.