South Carolina Horse Abuse Investigation: Remains Exhumed

Remains of a dozen horses found in gravesites located on property formerly owned by the Trexler family in Sumter County, S.C., are undergoing forensic testing at a lab at Florida State University. The remains were recovered Saturday by Melinda D. Merck, DVM, senior director of veterinary forensics for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, along with investigators from the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (HSPCA) of Richland, S.C.

The exhumation is part of an ongoing investigation into horse abuse allegedly perpetrated by Hazelene Trexler, and her sons Terry and James Trexler.

According to Kelly Graham, director of public relations for HSPCA, the complete remains of four young horses were found along with several incomplete skeletons.

"We found three heads here and a pelvis there, and hooves somewhere else," Graham said.

Testing will be performed to determine the horses' cause of death. Scientists will also be able to determine how long ago the horses died and were buried in shallow graves scattered around the property, she said.

Richland County law enforcement and Georgia authorities joined the primary investigators at a cause hearing in Richland County Court on Monday, during which the HSPCA sought legal ownership of 28 horses seized from the Trexlers two weeks ago.

No finding resulted from that proceeding, Graham said.

"We have to wait until the criminal cases are compete to pursue ownership because we want to make sure we do due diligence," she said. "We want to set a precedent with this case."

Georgia officials were present at the proceedings to explore the possibility that the Trexlers might have violated Georgia quarantine laws when they removed horses from that state to South Carolina.

A preliminary hearing for animal abuse charges in the case is slated for March 17.

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About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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