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Tuesday, Feb 26, 2008County: Richland
Case Images: 10 files available
» Hazelene E. Trexler
» James Trexler
» Terry Trexler
Case Updates: 8 update(s) available
This week the WIS News 10 newsroom has been following stories of neglected horses. It started with horses confiscated from Hazel Trexler's land. Then more horses were confiscated from her son James' land. And he has since been suspended from his position as Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says at about 8:00pm Wednesday night the Richland County Sheriff's Department's Fugitive Task Force apprehended Hazel Trexler, 70; Terry Trexler, 44; and James Trexler, 48. The charges are as follows:
* Hazelene E. Trexler
-28 counts of ill treatment of animals
* Terry A. Trexler
-23 counts of ill treatment of animals
* James Trexler
-5 counts of ill treatment of animals
-1 count of kidnapping (James is accused of holding an HSPCA investigator against her will/refusing to allow the investigator to leave a farm on 2/13 during an evaluation of the horses)
WIS News 10 has also learned Hazel Trexler is facing animal cruelty charges in Georgia. Additionally, we're following the fate of the horses confiscated in South Carolina.
According to the Jefferson County, Georgia Sheriff's Department, Hazel and her son Terry are facing a combined 61 counts of animal cruelty.
Tuesday, an official with the Georgia Department of Agriculture found pictures of the horses confiscated from Trexler on the South Carolina Humane Society website. They say that the horses found Tuesday were some of the same horses removed from Georgia.
Five of the horses taken Tuesday were removed from property belonging to James Trexler, the Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture. His mother Hazel told WIS News 10 those horses are also hers.
James Trexler is not believed to be involved in the case in Georgia.
What happens to the horses now that they are in custody of the Humane Society? WIS News 10 sent Drew Stewart to find out.
It's a scene veterinarian Dr. Michael Privett sees all too often. "We'll see cases with the Humane Society periodically, every year or two. But this type of condition is not that unusual, but on a smaller scale."
In these horses, Sheriff Lott says there were also inflictions could have caused lameness and halters growing into the faces of the horses.
The horses in question this week were confiscated earlier in the week by the Humane Society. They were brought to Dr. Privett's Richland County farm for evaluation and diagnosis. He says they need "de-worming. But mainly deworming and feeding them properly."
But more often, Privett sees cases where the owners just don't understand how to take care of their horses. "I'll run across situations where the owners were feeding the horses pine straw and Cheerios, and they thought that was the right thing to do."
Another problem is owners who run out of money to care for their horses. Privett estimates a cost of around $2,500 annually to feed a horse properly. He says the horses are often the first neglected when the owner gets into financial troubles.
Dr. Privett uses a one to 10 scale, with 10 being an overweight horse and five being optimal. The horse WIS News 10 saw got a one rating, but the good news is that with care and proper feeding, the horse can be rehabilitated.
Privett estimates it could take from three to five months. "I don't think we'll have a lot of trouble bringing these horses back. This one behind me is one of the worst, but I don't think she's too far gone that with proper feeding we can't bring her back. She's still energetic and interested in feeding."
But often, the best way to solve the problem of a malnourished horse is teaching the owner. "The owners will call us out, and it's just a matter of education," says Dr. Privett.
|A Richland County hearing today for a family accused of abusing dozens of horses in their care was canceled.|
Richland County Magistrate Kirby Shealy said a preliminary hearing for Hazelene Trexler and her sons, James and Terry Trexler, could not be held in his court because the charges in question were magistrate-level offenses.
Fifth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Jill Andrews told Shealy her office has not decided where the misdemeanor cases will be handled.
The Trexlers were charged with felony and misdemeanor animal abuse counts after 28 horses were seized in February from farms near Hopkins and Eastover. An additional 17 horses were seized later from another farm near Hopkins.
James Trexler, an assistant state agriculture commissioner, resigned his $84,000-a-year job after the horses were seized.
|Source: The State - Aug 15, 2008|
Update posted on Aug 15, 2008 - 3:34PM
|A family at the center of a two-state investigation into horse neglect - including a former state agriculture official - now face 14 felony charges of animal abuse.|
A Richland County grand jury has indicted former assistant state agriculture commissioner James W. Trexler, his brother, Terry Trexler, and their mother, Hazelene Trexler, on the upgraded charges of ill treatment of animals.
The three already faced misdemeanor ill treatment of animals charges in connection with the seizure of a total of 45 horses they owned from three farms in Richland County.
The four Arabian horses tied to the felony charges were found knee-deep in their own feces with no access to water or food, investigators said. There was evidence the horses had attempted to eat the stalls they were kept in.
If convicted on all four felony charges he now faces, James Trexler, 48, could face up to 20 years in prison - as opposed to less than a year in jail on the misdemeanor charges.
Felony animal abuse charges usually are reserved for people suspected of dog fighting, Humane Society spokeswoman Kelly Graham said. She hopes the case against the Trexlers will send a message to people about the level of care authorities expect from pet and livestock owners.
"They are animals and they are under people's protection," Graham said. "We're not going to take these cases more lightly because they're not pets."
Efforts to reach the Trexlers for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.
According to court documents:
• James Trexler, who resigned his state post earlier this month, was indicted on four felony counts of ill treatment of animals stemming from the seizure of neglected horses from a Hopkins farm where he lived.
• Hazelene Trexler, 70, was indicted on seven felony counts of ill treatment of animals stemming from the seizure of those same horses and three others from another property operated by the Trexlers near Eastover.
• Terry A. Trexler, 44, was indicted on three felony counts of ill treatment of animals stemming from the seizure of three horses from the Eastover property.
Each felony count carries a penalty of 180 days to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
No court date has been set on the upgraded felony charges, assistant 5th Circuit Solicitor Jill Andrews said. She declined to comment on specifics of the case.
In Richland County, James Trexler also is charged with one misdemeanor count of ill treatment of animals, and Hazelene and Terry Trexler still face multiple misdemeanor charges of ill treatment of animals.
Terry Trexler also faces a kidnapping charge stemming from a confrontation with a Humane Society investigator.
Convictions on the misdemeanor charges would carry up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $100 to $500 for each charge.
The Trexlers were arrested Feb. 27 after the Humane Society seized 28 horses belonging to them on Feb. 25 and Feb. 26. In all, S.C. authorities have seized 45 horses the Trexler family owned.
Terry Trexler and Hazelene Trexler were extradited to Georgia, where each faces 29 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, 25 misdemeanor counts of moving animals under quarantine and one count each of letting livestock roam at large.
More charges are pending against the mother and son for allegedly moving horses across state lines without proper paperwork, said Jefferson County, Ga., Sheriff's Code Enforcement Officer Jimmy Kitchens.
Richland County authorities also are pursuing further misdemeanor ill treatment of animal charges in connection with the March 3 seizure of 17 horses owned by the Trexler family, Andrews said, though she declined further comment.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott earlier said those 17 horses, which were seized from a pasture on Misty Meadows Road near Hopkins, had been neglected, though Graham said then they appeared to be in better condition than the 28 horses seized earlier.
In Sumter County, Graham said, preliminary forensic results have come back on horse remains found on property recently owned by James Trexler, but authorities are awaiting more information on insects and plant material sent to a lab in Florida.
|Source: The State - March 21, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 21, 2008 - 1:27AM
|Animal abuse charges against James Trexler will be upgraded from misdemeanors to felonies if a Richmond County grand jury hands down an indictment in his case.|
According to Kelly Graham, spokesperson for the Richland County, S.C., Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (HSPCA), Fifth District Assistant Solicitor Jill Andrews will seek the indictment during court proceedings on Wednesday.
James Trexler, a former South Carolina Department of Agriculture assistant commissioner of administration, is currently charged with five counts of misdemeanor ill treatment of animals found on his property by HSPCA investigators last month.
"The solicitor wants to upgrade the charges because of the terrible conditions the horses were living in," Graham said.
Trexler was suspended from his position with the Department of Agriculture in February. He resigned on March 5, according to Department spokesperson Becky Walton.
Hazelene Trexler, James' mother, faces 28 misdemeanor animal abuse charges, and brother Terry Trexler is charged with 23 similar charges in South Carolina. Both are free on bond. According to Graham, the pair also posted bond in Georgia, where they face additional animal abuse charges.
Meanwhile, Graham said, the total of 45 horses seized from Trexler property in are doing well, gaining weight, and might be moving on to qualified foster homes soon. Now, she says, HSPCA is coping with the cost of caring for the horses.
"The bill for the first two weeks was $14,000," Graham said.
Plans for a fundraiser are underway, she said.
|Source: The Horse - March 12, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 12, 2008 - 4:19PM
|There are new developments in the animal cruelty case against the Trexler family. Georgia prison officials tell WIS News 10 Hazel Trexler is out of a Georgia jail, while her son Terry is still in jail there.|
Mrs. Trexler and her two sons, Terry and James, were arrested last month after malnourished horses were found on the family farm in Richland County.
In addition to the charges here, Mrs. Trexler and Terry also faced animal cruelty charges in Jefferson County, Georgia.
The Trexlers' next court date is scheduled for Tuesday in Richland County.
Hazel Trexler faces 28 charges of ill treatment toward animals, and Terry faces 23 counts of the same charge.
Terry's brother James Trexler, the former Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture, stepped down from his position last week after being suspended.
He faces five counts of ill treatment toward animals in Richland County.
|Source: WIStv - March 9, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 9, 2008 - 11:10PM
|A South Carolina agriculture official accused of abusing horses has resigned from the department.|
Agency spokeswoman Becky Walton said Friday that James Trexler has resigned as assistant agriculture commissioner. He had been suspended without pay after he was charged with five counts of animal cruelty.
James Trexler's brother and mother were sent to Georgia on Thursday to face animal cruelty charges there.
Authorities say Terry Trexler and Hazelene Trexler each face 30 charges of animal cruelty and 25 counts of moving horses that had been quarantined in Georgia.
They also face other charges in South Carolina.
Last week, 23 malnourished horses were discovered on South Carolina properties leased by Hazelene and Terry Trexler. Five more were found on James Trexler's property.
|Source: WSOC - March 7, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 7, 2008 - 4:15PM
|Humane Society officials say they have temporary custody of horses they say were abused, after finding the animals on land tended by a family charged with animal abuse.|
The Humane Society has custody of the animals until they complete their investigation.
Officers say they began investigating Hazelene Trexler, Terry Trexler and James Trexler, after receiving reports that they were abusing animals.
Investigators are scouring properties the family they leased in Eastover in Richland, and another property in Sumter County, to piece together clues for their case against the Trexler family.
On Friday in Richland County, authorities along with the veterinarian who is caring for the seized horses, returned to the Trexlers' leased property on Zeigler Road in Eastover. The vet found three possible burial sites there. Twenty-three horses were seized from this location on Monday.
Hazelene and Terry Trexler were charged in Georgia in connection with abused horses there. Investigators believe some of the horses from their Georgia property were transported to their property in Eastover.
|Source: WLTX - March 3, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 3, 2008 - 3:33PM
|With hands and trowels, a forensic veterinarian and a team of investigators Saturday dug up shallow graves containing horse bones at a vacant Sumter County farm once owned by a state agricultural official.|
As a two-state animal-abuse investigation continues, 28 horses have been seized during the probe of the Trexler family, and a court hearing Monday could decide who gets custody of them.
Dr. Melinda Merck, forensic veterinarian for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and three investigators from the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Columbia began examining 20 spots where one or more horse bones were found.
Nine were grave sites, said Sumter County sheriff's Sgt. Randy Wright, who supervises the animal control division.
The East Brewington Road property was once owned by James Trexler, an assistant agricultural commissioner who has been suspended from his job.
Authorities are looking for evidence in a mounting case of ill treatment of animals in which they filed charges last week against Trexler, his brother, Terry Trexler, and mother, Hazelene Trexler.
On Monday, authorities, acting on a complaint, seized 28 horses in the Trexlers' care from a pasture near Eastover and a farm near Hopkins. Many were malnourished.
In the first grave opened Saturday, investigators found remains of three horses, but two were missing many parts, including skulls, suggesting they were not intact when buried, Merck said.
Merck considered that suspicious. "I don't know yet why the body parts were separated," Merck said.
Merck sifted through soil with her hand, using a small plastic spoon to lift pupal casings shed by maggots, which she put into a vial that will be sent to forensic entomologists. They may be able to determine when the horses died, helping Merck piece together the puzzle.
"If I can find evidence of cruelty, then it can add to the charges they may be facing," she said.
Merck also collected a left femur bone. Bone-marrow tests can be conducted to see if an animal was starved. Plant material, hair and other items were also collected.
Merck is among the nation's top experts in animal forensics and has helped the federal government in its investigation of Michael Vick, the disgraced professional football player who pleaded guilty last year to being involved in a dog-fighting enterprise.
As investigators were digging in Sumter County, Connie Dickman of Rising Sun, Ind., rushed up to the site, looking for a 20-year-old Arabian stallion she said she sold to James Trexler 2½ years ago for $10,000.
Dickman said Trexler had wanted the horse for his mother, but only paid half, adding that she lost contact with him. Investigators were researching to see if that horse was one of the seized animals.
"Oh God, I hope he's still alive," Dickman said.
Investigators still plan to search a property on Fish Hatchery Road in Lexington County, where they have received complaints that horses the Trexlers kept there were being mistreated.
They will continue looking into the Sumter property.
Michele Hart, a cruelty investigator for the Humane Society, pledged to look into every property the Trexlers have owned, leased or visited: "We've gotta put a stop to this."
Monday's hearing on the case is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Olympia magistrate's office on Shop Road.
|Source: The State - March 2, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 2, 2008 - 9:28PM
|The Humane Society has confiscated 28 horses they found malnourished on a property that at one point was owned by the Trexler family. |
But authorities say the animals were kept on at least four different properties.
Officials have searched one of the properties in Sumter for a few days, and Saturday they took their investigation one step further.
It's the first time the Humane Society has been allowed to dig on the property off Brewington Road, and so far they've found hundreds of horse bones in shallow graves.
"To just find them randomly scattered throughout a pasture, not dug into the ground very deeply, just a shallow grave, it's very unusual and this amount of carcases that we're finding is unusual," says Humane Society spokesperson Kelly Graham.
The Humane Society says the property once belonged to the Trexlers, and News 10 has learned the land is now owned by Wells Fargo.
"Just because based on history of what we've been learning about the Trexlers and other properties we're very suspicious as to why these animals died," says Graham.
By digging up the bones the Humane Society is hoping to learn two things -- how the horses died and how long they've been dead.
Investigators say they can test the bone marrow to find out if the horses were malnourished. The bones will be sent to Florida State University to be tested, and every horse skeleton that is found will equal another charge for the Trexler.
"We're going to follow every lead that we get and they keep coming in, so this could potentially end up to be a lot bigger than it is," says Graham.
Hazel Trexler and her two sons were in court Thursday facing animal cruelty charges.
James Trexler, who is also the state's Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture, is out on bond.
His brother Terry Trexler is still in jail. He faces 23 counts of ill treatment of animals.
Their mother Hazel Trexler is also still in jail. She faces 28 counts of ill treatment of animals.
|Source: WIS10 News - March 1, 2008|
Update posted on Mar 2, 2008 - 7:04PM
- WIStv - Feb 27, 2008
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