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Fayette man jailed on animal cruelty charges in shootings of 2 cows, horse

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2002

A Fayette County man faces a preliminary hearing next week on charges he used an SKS assault rifle to shoot two Holstein cows and a pregnant Percheron mare last month in Springfield Township.

Michael Lee Richter, 18, of Normalville, is to appear Tuesday before District Justice Robert Breakiron of Bullskin Township.

Richter, who was jailed in lieu of $5,000 bond after his arraignment Wednesday before District Justice Dwight Shaner of Dunbar Township, is charged with three counts of animal cruelty, two counts of criminal mischief and one count involving a weapons violation.

State police at Uniontown allege Richter shot two cows owned by Walter Neal May, 36, of Mill Run, while the animals were in a pasture late in the night of Aug. 24 or early in the morning of Aug 25. Richter then shot the draft horse owned by John D. May, 47, who lives near Walter May, authorities said. The mare had been treated by a veterinarian but died about two weeks after the shooting. The foal also died.

Kathy May, Walter May's wife, said Thursday that she knew something was wrong Aug. 25 when she, her husband and their daughter walked to the pasture to milk the cows and saw blood.

"My husband said she must have been shot," May remembered of one cow, who had a shattered jaw. The other Holstein was dead.

A veterinarian advised the couple to butcher the injured cow, which was done, May said.

John May said that on Aug. 25, he saw swelling on his horse, a registered pure-blood Percheron, while she was in the barn.

"We just discovered a hole in its side the size of a pencil (point)," he said. "We thought maybe it just got poked by a tree limb."

But a veterinarian determined the horse had been shot, John May said.

He surmises the 8-year-old mare was shot while in a pasture and fled to the barn.

A motive wasn't addressed in a probable cause affidavit, a court official said. Trooper James Pierce, the investigating officer, couldn't be reached for comment yesterday. The two May men are cousins.

Kathy May said she believes those responsible must have thought it would be fun to slay animals in a pasture.

"I just think they were out having a good time and didn't think of the consequences of shooting them," she said. "I don't think they were thinking they were anything (special)."

"I don't know," John May said of why his horse was shot. "I've raised horses over 30 years and never had anything like this happen."

The cows were worth $2,500 each, while the horse was valued at $6,000, according to police.

Authorities said they also are considering charging a 17-year-old male in the incident. The juvenile, who was not identified by police, was in the vehicle Richter was using when the animals were shot, authorities said.

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