Preliminary hearing for veterinarian involved in starved horses incident continued to August

Tuesday, June 10th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KINGFISHER, Okla. (AP) _ A retired Enid veterinarian will have to wait to find out if he'll stand trial on 17 counts of animal cruelty for the treatment of more than 100 horses, 29 of which died.

The preliminary hearing for Jess Brewer was continued to Aug. 5 in Kingfisher County District Court.

Prosecutors on Monday argued that Brewer tried to persuade his business partners to concoct a story to explain the animals' starvation. One witness remained at the end of the daylong hearing.

Undersheriff Barry Reilly found the more than 100 starving horses in which Brewer owned an interest on Nov. 19, along with 27 dead horses in a 75-acre field, according to court documents.

Assistant District Attorney Ard Gates asked Edmond attorney J.L. Brewer, who also is Brewer's son, if he oversaw a meeting the Saturday after the horses were found.

Gates asked whether the purpose of the meeting was to develop a story for the three men with interests in the horses and whether their theory was that they should say that each thought the other was supposed to take care of the horses.

``It wasn't a theory. As near as I can tell it was actual fact,'' J.L. Brewer said.

Jim Flaming, the partner who bought the horses for about $20,000 for Brewer, testified he thought Tom Sturgeon of Hennessey was the partner responsible for feeding and caring for the horses.

Sturgeon didn't testify Monday, but is scheduled to in August when the hearing continues.

Flaming also testified that when the horses were moved to the field near Lacey in September 2002, some were thin while others were fat.

The horses came from a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona and had been near starvation when they were bought, he said.

Gates asked Flaming if he remembered driving by the field a few days before the sheriff's department took the horses into custody and telling Brewer that the horses probably needed some hay.

Flaming said he did and that Brewer told him he had a pickup truck that could be used for that, but it needed some repairs.

``There was no reason to panic. I just thought the grass was short,'' he said.

Reilly and Dale Fullerton, the chief investigator for the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Examiners, testified there was little green grass in the field at the time the horses were taken into custody.

Reilly also testified that deputies found 27 dead horses in the 75-acre field. About 106 more were taken to land nearby.

Kristy Krueger, a Lahoma veterinarian, testified Monday that two more died a short time later.

Most of the horses remain in the custody of the sheriff's department on a ranch in Canadian County. Krueger is still caring for a few on her land.

Luis Rangel, owner of the 75 acres near Lacey where the horses were found, testified that he called Sturgeon twice and asked him to contact Jess Brewer because there wasn't enough grass in the field.

Reilly testified that when he talked to Brewer about the horses, Brewer said he thought Sturgeon was caring for them. Reilly said Brewer told him he never came back to the Rangel place once the horses were put there.

``He nodded his head and made the statement, 'Out of sight out of mind,''' Reilly said.

Brewer remains free in lieu of $85,000 bond.