BELLEVIEW, Fla. - A horse died and another fell ill after they were apparently injected with gasoline, according to the Marion County Sheriff's Office. The incidents occurred at small horse farms on Southeast 55th Avenue Road in Belleview.
The owner of the horse that died, John Hoogerhyde, said the 17-year-old Paso Fino horse named Jolean appeared to be sick last week. He noticed a small spot of blood on Jolean's shoulder but said it looked like a bug bite. Two days later, the horse's neck was swollen. The horse couldn't lay down and Jolean had to be put down.
"Jolean was our horse, we rescued her a year and a half ago," said Hoogerhyde. "She was a rescue from someone in Ocala who had badly beaten her. We took her. She didn't like people. She didn't want people at first and we trained her to be kindhearted and love humans again, complete transformation. And then a year and a half now, she's gone. Someone took our horse from us."
During an autopsy of the horse, the veterinarian called to Hoogerhyde to ask if he poured gasoline on the horse because when he opened up her shoulder, the smell of gasoline was overcoming.
Around the same time, Hoogerhyde's next-door neighbor, Leah Greenleaf, noticed her 6-year-old horse, Kate, was showing symptoms of being ill. Greenleaf called her veterinarian who came out and tested Kate and found gasoline was also inside her body. Kate has gone through two surgeries and is awaiting a third to remove the gasoline and scarred tissue as a result of the gas.
"I try not think about the fact that I could lose her as well but it's a very real possibility," said Greenleaf.
The two horse owners, and next-door neighbors, are devastated and fearful. They've installed surveillance cameras and Hoogerhyde moved his other two horses to another location.
"By law they need to go to jail, but by what everyone around here is saying they need to meet the same fate. Let's put some gasoline in them and see how they feel," Greenleaf said.
A search of the properties did not turn up any syringes or other suspicious items, deputies said.
Both horse owners said they don't have any known enemies.
Anyone with information about the incidents is urged to call the Marion County Sheriff's Office or Crime Stoppers at 352-368-STOP.
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