Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17822
Classification: Burning - Fire or Fireworks
Animal: horse
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Sunday, Apr 24, 2011

County: Morgan

Disposition: Open
Case Images: 2 files available

Suspect(s) Unknown - We need your help!

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Brent Whitehouse was in shock and dismay after his barn burned to the ground late Sunday night, killing all eight of his horses.

The State Fire Marshal's Office has ruled the fire arson but has not released when or where the fire started.

"The barn I can rebuild, but the bond I had with those horses can't be replaced," said Whitehouse.
"Whoever did this had to walk right by all those horses, including the baby, and didn't care that they were killing a gentle, loving animal."

Whitehouse said he had gotten up just before midnight on Sunday to check on one of the registered quarterhorses, Love, who was pregnant and due to drop her foal at any minute.

"I knew the way she was acting Saturday and Sunday that she was ready," Whitehouse said. "My one dog was acting funny, and I looked out the window and saw this orange glow coming from the barn. I ran out there, but the doors of the barn wouldn't open and suddenly, flames were shooting up through the roof. That barn was gone in five minutes."

Whitehouse said the barn, 225-by-75 feet, had an inside riding arena, stalls for all the horses, a separate tack room and hay storage.

The flames were so hot a tractor inside the barn melted, Whitehouse said. Neighbors told him they could see the flames for miles.

Shane Cartmill, spokesman for the fire marshal's office, said when firefighters arrived on the scene, they quickly decided it was a crime scene due to derogatory sayings that had been painted on the barn and barn doors prior to the fire.

"They were hateful," Whitehouse said of the sayings. "I think the investigators are looking at this like a hate crime."

Whitehouse, a horse trainer and breeder, and owner of an insurance company in McConnelsville, said he is still in shock over losing Elvis, Barney, Floyd, Princess and her week-old foal, Buddy, Love, Bella and Ethel. The value of the horses was hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Each one of them was so special," Whitehouse said. "I'd come home from a long day at the office and go to the barn and be with them for hours. They just knew how to relax me and make me laugh."

Ethel, Whitehouse, said, reminded him of the character of the same name on "I Love Lucy."

"She was such a funny horse," Whitehouse said. "She acted so silly."

Floyd was a very large horse who "didn't let things bother him."

"He just plodded along with you," Whitehouse said. "He was huge, but wouldn't hurt anything or anyone."

Whitehouse teared up remembering Buddy.

"He was only a week old," Whitehouse said. "I just had him and his mother in the arena and he was coming up and smelling me and checking me out. He was cute as a button."

M&M Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gary Woodward said it took his firefighters almost two hours to put out the flames after getting the call from Whitehouse.

"We stayed through the night after seeing the painting and called the fire marshal's office," Woodward said. "We felt it was a crime scene at that point."

Whitehouse said he has gotten so much support from neighbors and friends in Morgan County and is grateful.

"I just don't understand someone wanting to kill innocent animals," Whitehouse said. "It's like killing a child. Those horses never did anything to hurt anyone."

The fire marshal's office is asking for any information regarding the fire or messages painted on the barn and is encouraging anyone who may have seen or heard something out of the ordinary to contact them at (800) 589-2728 or the Morgan County Sheriff's Office at (740) 962-4044.

If you have information on this case, please contact:
Sheriff’s Office
(740) 962-4044

Case Updates

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information on the barn fire that killed eight horses in McConnelsville April 24.

Karen Minton, the Ohio state director for the humane society, said the organization is "outraged by the intense suffering of the eight innocent horses that burned to death and we hope our reward helps investigators find the person or persons responsible for this callous act." Minton said her organization routinely donates reward money to "significant animal cruelty cases."

A reward of up to $5,000 also is being offered by the Ohio FAIR Plan Underwriting Association, who works with law enforcement, firefighters and insurance industry personnel in an effort to combat arson.

The fire that consumed Brent Whitehouse's barn has been ruled arson by the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office, and Whitehouse has called it a hate crime.

Whitehouse has been flooded with telephone calls and e-mails from people throughout the county offering their support and funds to help rebuild his barn.

"What I'm going to do with money donated is to create a fund that will go to injured animals and children," Whitehouse said. "As far as I'm concerned, children and animals are helpless and the most innocent things in the world."

While the fire marshal's office and the Morgan County Sheriff's Office continue to investigate the fire, Whitehouse said he discovered a flashlight between two horse stalls Wednesday night that might have been used by whomever set the fire.

"I know it's not mine," Whitehouse said. "The officers have told me they collected other evidence they found but couldn't tell me exactly what it was."

Whitehouse is devastated by his loss but said he plans on rebuilding and moving forward.

"Those horses were like my children," Whitehouse said. "I have been in shock by someone wanting to destroy them, but then I've had so much support and help from not just friends and people in the community, but from all across the country. It's been amazing. It just warms my heart."

Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to call the fire marshal's office at (800) 589-2728 or the sheriff's office at (740) 962-4044.
Source: - Apr 29, 2011
Update posted on Apr 29, 2011 - 9:47PM 


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