Affidavits Supporting Saddlebred's Exhumation Submitted

The owners of Wild Eyed and Wicked, one of the American Saddlebreds attacked and subsequently euthanatized after his condition debilitated in the summer of 2003, have asked again that the horse's body be exhumed from its burial site on Double D Ranch in Versailles, Ky. The exhumation issue was held in abeyance at the conclusion of an Aug. 13 U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky hearing (see pending receipt of affidavits that would indicate that the proposed exhumation would not hinder or interfere with the criminal investigation of the attacks and that the veterinarians who treated the horse do not have any blood or tissue samples in their possession.

Counsel for Sally and Joe Jackson, owners of Wicked, submitted eight affidavits on Sept. 17 that addressed issues raised by the Court; several of those affidavits included testimony that exhumation and forensic examination of Wicked's remains would be beneficial in an investigation of the nature of the injections.

Woodford County Commonwealth's Attorney Gordie Shaw testified in his affidavit that exhumation and forensic testing of Wicked's body "would not hamper or obstruct the on-going KSP (Kentucky State Police) criminal investigation, and I believe that it may be of benefit, to assist my office and the KSP in the conduct of the criminal investigation. As a result, I have no objection to the exhumation or the testing."

John Cummins, DVM; Carol McLeod, DVM; and Ric Redden, DVM; all Central Kentucky veterinarians who treated Wicked and the other attacked horses, testified in their affidavits that they do not have any bone, blood, or tissue samples from Wicked or any of the other affected horses and did not conduct testing on such materials from Wicked, fulfilling the second affidavit requirement of the Court. It had been argued that if samples were already available for testing, then exhumation would not be necessary.

Additional affidavits were submitted by George Maylin, DVM, PhD, a veterinarian, pharmacologist, analytical chemist, and director of the Equine Drug Testing Program at Cornell University; William C. Edwards, DVM, Dipl. ABVT (American Board of Veterinary Toxicology), professor emeritis in the department of medicine and surgery of the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine; Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD, Dipl. ABFA (American Board of Forensic Anthropology), a forensic anthropologist and professor of biology at the College of St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Scott Bennett, DVM, a private practitioner in Lexington, Ky.

Last year, it was written in media outlets that toxicology reports on tissue from the injured horses' legs and blood samples were inconclusive. Maylin's affidavit revealed that the tissues that were tested were scabs from wounds from the injected horses (not specifically identified to be Wicked) sent by McLeod. Maylin "performed routine testing on these materials to search for the presence of conventional drugs," which showed presence of anti-inflammatory and local anesthetic compounds, which are consistent with the treatment of the horses' lesions.

Maylin's tests did not disclose the "causative agent of the underlying injury to the horses" and he "was not provided any viable tissue samples upon which to perform testing. I began the process to develop an ELIZA [sic] test, but due to insufficient funding and a lack of appropriate antibodies, that process was unsuccessful." He received tissue samples from another horse that was euthanatized subsequent to Wicked's death, but he did not receive any directions as to what substance to test for, so he returned the unopened sample containers to the KSP.

Edwards testified in his affidavit that forensic testing of Wicked's remains will allow for determination of the "specific nature and cause of underlying injury" to Wicked. He believes that soft tissue samples "which can be harvested for the purpose of necessary forensic testing" will be present in the grave along with skeletal remains. He suggested employment of several imaging techniques that could provide valuable information about the history of the injury (i.e., to see if there were pre-existing injury or pathology at or about the site of injection and injury). He said testing might help determine "whether multiple injections had occurred at or about the same or similar site."

Edwards also mentioned the possibility of collecting samples for "inductively coupled plasma mass spectomitry [sic]…which would involve testing and comparing tissue from the right and left forelegs together with the rear leg. Analysis will determine if there are any differences in elemental content which would suggest what caustic agent may have been used in the injection." He anticipated that procedure would be performed at the Wyoming Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Other samples could be collected for development of an ELISA test for testing for cobra or other venoms.

Additionally, Edwards testified that he has the necessary contacts to present exhumed test samples to appropriate laboratories and individuals who can conduct forensic tests.

Murray acknowledged in her affidavit that a number of factors will impact the rate and extent of decomposition of remains, "Including but not limited to, depth of burial and soil type, whether or not the body is covered or wrapped in any way, the presence and activity of insects and animals, and the weather (including the height of the water table, temperature during the period of burial, and freeze/thaw cycles)." She maintained that intact skeletonized remains could be removed from the grave site, using human exhumation methods. She agreed there could be soft tissues present that could be successfully exhumed for forensic testing.

Finally, Murray testified that examination of skeletal remains would allow scientists to look into such aspects as the depth of the wounds, the impact of the wound on the bony structures of the limb, and potentially whether Wicked was injected only once or over a prolonged period of time. She said blood and tissue samples, whether harvested from the remains or stored since the injury, cannot be used to obtain the type of information that can be gleaned from skeletal examination.

Bennett was a treating veterinarian for Wicked between August 2001 and June 2003. He strongly supports the proposed exhumation for the purposes of forensic testing for many of the reasons listed in other affidavits, including imaging modalities that could provide clues as to the nature of the injections.

It is anticipated there will be another court hearing on the topic. As of Sept. 29, the case did not appear on the docket.
Read archived articles about the Saddlebred attacks at

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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