I.G.H.A. / HorseAid's Bureau of Land Management News

Brutal Killers of 34 Nevada Wild Horses Apprehended

Nevada Horse Slaying Suspect Gets Exam

The Associated Press (By Scott Sonner)

RENO, Nev., Dec. 29 -- Thirty-one wild horses (IGHA/HorseAid note: 3 more horses were discovered shot to death after this Associated Press article was released, bringing the new total to 34. As the search continues, even more may be found) were shot to death at close range with a rifle in the worst slaughter of free-roaming horses in Nevada in a decade, investigators said today.

"This kind of stuff is just sick and absolutely senseless, " said Paul Iverson, administrator of the Nevada Division of Agriculture. Some of them were shot and left to suffer for a long period of time. Twenty-five of the horses were found in and around a valley known as Devil's Flat on Sunday and Monday. Six additional bodies were discovered today during a helicopter search." The horses included several young colts and pregnant mares. Some were maimed and at least one was tortured with sprays to the head from a fire extinguisher after being shot, " sheriff's Sgt. Bob Towery said.

"I have no reason why. There's no rationale for it," Towery said. One young horse was still alive when leaders of a local animal rescue group were called to the scene Sunday afternoon, but it had to be destroyed. "We only saw two (dead) horses at first. Then, oh my God, we saw another one. And then a fourth and a fifth. It was horrible," said Bobbi Royle of Wild Horse Spirit based in the nearby Washoe Valley. "There was one little filly still alive, probably just eight or nine months old. She was shot in the back and paralyzed," she said today. "She had to be put down."

Bullets Sent to Forensics Lab

State officials were using a metal detector to locate and remove bullets from the carcasses to be sent to a forensics lab. A reward totaling more than $20,000 (IGHA/HorseAid note: the reward is now over $35,000)was posted for the arrest of the killers.

"There's just total outrage. People are so upset," said Lydia Hammack, president of Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association in Virginia City. "These animals are magnificent animals and I really can't understand how somebody can do this. It's a real sicko out there."

Investigators do not believe the killings are related to the long-standing tensions between ranchers and government managers of wild horses, said John Tyson, a Storey County range management officer. For decades, ranchers have complained that wild horses compete with their livestock for limited food in the high desert. The slaughter is believed to be the biggest single shooting of wild horses in Nevada since as many as 600 were killed during a two-year period in the mid-1980s. Those shootings were linked to friction with ranchers, but "we just never were able to get enough evidence to go to court with anybody," said Bob Stewart, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Alleged Killers Apprehended!
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  • Nevada Horse Slaying Suspect Gets Exam

    By SANDRA CHEREB, Associated Press Writer

    VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. (AP) -- One of three suspects in the slaughter of 34 wild horses was freed on bail after declaring his innocent while another underwent a mental exam and fought his extradition to Nevada.

    Anthony Merlino, 20, posted a $60,000 bond Thursday and was released from jail. He was to be arraigned today on charges of grand theft, grand larceny and maiming, poisoning or killing another person's animal.

    "Mr. Merlino maintains his innocence," defense lawyer Scott Freeman said. "Everybody is so quick to judge this young man. That's what we have courts for."

    Former neighbors at an apartment Merlino rented with friends in 1997 have described him as a hunter who blasted birds in the yard with a shotgun, gutted a deer on his living room carpet and bragged about his marksmanship.

    The bodies of the free-roaming mustangs were found outside Reno late last month. Authorities said several animals suffered for a long time before they died or were destroyed.

    Facing the same charges as Merlino are two high school buddies, Scott Brendle, 21, and Darien Brock, 20, both Marines. Brock, who was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, was transferred to a mental health facility after he mentioned suicide Wednesday night, according to San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Rick Figueroa. Brock is contesting his extradition to Nevada. Brendle has indicated he will agree to return to Nevada to face charges. He was transferred on Wednesday from the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms east of Los Angeles to a nearby jail.

    Nevada Horse Slaying Suspect Called "Peculiar"

    Associated Press Feed

    RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Anthony Merlino's neighbor thought he was peculiar, the way he bragged about shooting birds in the yard, gutted a deer on his living room carpet and left dead ducks lying around his apartment.

    But she never imagined the 20-year-old construction worker could be involved in the slaughter of 34 wild horses outside Reno last month.

    "You hate to think about somebody that they are capable of that much killing," Melissa Sarenana, who lived next to Merlino for more than a year, said Wednesday. "He seemed like somebody who had been picked on his whole life and had to take it out on innocent things."

    Merlino was arrested Tuesday after the granddaughter of a sheriff's department employee overheard a conversation about the slaughter at a party, according to investigators.

    Also arrested were Lance Cpl. Scott Brendle, 21, and Lance Cpl. Darien Brock, 20, high school buddies of Merlino who authorities said joined the slaughter while home on leave from their bases in California.

    "If this kind of behavior is in fact true, it doesn't speak very highly of a Camp Pendleton Marine," said Lt. David Nevers, a spokesman at Brock's base. "We're as disgusted and sickened as anyone by this kind of behavior.''

    The horses were shot with rifles, and several limped away and lay dying when authorities found them and put them out of their misery. A reward fund grew to $35,000 as hundreds of tips about the Dec. 27 shootings came in.

    "It's amazing the number of everyday people that were interested in helping us," said sheriff's Sgt. Bill Petty. "I've been getting checks for $5 and $10 from as far away as Florida and Georgia."

    Merlino was charged with offenses including grand larceny and maiming, poisoning or killing another person's animal. He was jailed on $60,000 bail and scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

    His Nevada hunting license was revoked last year after a state game warden saw him shoot a federally protected hawk, Nevada Wildlife Division spokesman Chris Healy said. Merlino also was cited in December 1997 for illegally trapping and killing a kit fox.

    "He was sick. He was bizarre. He was really disgusting. I don't know any other way to put it," Ms. Sarenana said. "He'd leave dead ducks around the house all the time. I mean, for days at a time he would leave animals on their kitchen counter.''

    Get Personally Involved!

    If you have any information about this heinous crime, please e-mail us, or call us at: 310.719.9094, or write to us at: "IGHA/HorseAid Tips", P.O. Box 6778 Eastview Station, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90734-6778 (U.S.A.).

    All information will be kept STRICTLY confidential (this falls within our "Abuse Report" guidelines). If your information leads to the apprehension and conviction of the perpetrators of these gruesome acts, your return e-mail/postal address or telecom information will be used to identify and qualify you for the considerable reward monies already being offered.

    In addition, IGHA/HorseAid has also started its own reward fund, and is listing all contributors (and the amount they contributed) on our new "REWARD" page. This reward fund will be in addition to any other rewards being offered in this case. Our goal is to raise a minimum of $25,000 (U.S.) to add to the already pledged (from other sources) $35,000 currently being offered.

    Please help us in seeking justice for these horses!

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