Florida: Immigrant Horse Killer Takes Plea Deal

Animal lovers of south Florida have been sickened over the last couple years about the cruel slaughter of horses by strangers in the night. Families were shocked to find beloved family pets with their throats slit and cut into pieces.

The motive is money: the immigrants of the area — largely Cubans but also Haitians and Nicaraguans — like to celebrate their diversity by eating horsemeat and are willing to pay top dollar on the black market; up to $40 per pound has been reported. An adult horse can yield 400 pounds of meat, so a night of brutal slaughter can bring thousands of dollars to the killer.

As animal rescuer Richard Couti remarked, “South Florida is probably one of the only places in the United States that a dead horse is much more valuable than a live horse.”

Below, Richard Couti comforts a foal whose mother was slaughtered in a Miami stable.

Two men were arrested in the crimes and one, Santiago Cabrera, took a plea deal this month rather than face the possibility of life in prison.

Accused horse butcher pleads guilty, Miami Herald, November 17, 2010

More than a year after approaching police with information on a spate of gruesome Miami-Dade horse killings, Santiago Cabrera pleaded guilty Wednesday to being one of the butchers.

Cabrera pleaded guilty to an array of felonies, and will be sentenced Dec. 17 in front of Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel. He likely will receive about five years — the amount prosecutors had offered in earlier plea negotiations that fell through.

Cabrera’s defense attorney, Juan Gonzalez, said his client was “extremely remorseful.”

The 20-year-old was one of two men accused of breaking into farms in Northwest Miami-Dade last year and killing several horses — butchering some of them while still alive, investigators said.

Cabrera pleaded guilty to charges including armed burglary and cruelty to animals. The second defendant, Luis Cordero, 19, is still awaiting trial.

The case has drawn widespread media attention, and the court hearings have been packed with animal lovers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and South Florida Trail Riders.

“This was a ghastly crime, cutting chunks of flesh from these horses while they were still alive,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle. “Such a cruel act merits prison, something we have sought from the moment we filed this case.”

Miami-Dade prosecutors believe the horses were killed so their meat could be sold for food.

According to Miami-Dade police, Cordero and Cabrera, along with two other men, broke into the Stone City ranch July 9, 2009, and removed a horse from its stall. The group slit the horse’s throat, broke its legs and began cutting meat from its legs, rear and back while the horse was still alive, police said.

Another news report said deportation (!) might be in Cabrera’s future.

Man In Horse Slaughter Case Accepts Plea Deal, CBS Channel 4, November 18, 2010

One of the two men accused of killing horses pleaded guilty Wednesday to several charges related to the horse killings that occurred last year including armed burglary and animal cruelty. In exchange, Santiago Cabrera will face a maximum of five years in jail and may face deportation.