TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA)—A man was arrested in St. Petersburg Thursday on suspicion of stealing and killing a horse that was found butchered last year in Palmetto, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies said the horse was found dead in a field after it was stolen from a stable on Buckeye Road near Grass Farm Road on Dec. 1, 2019, and that it had been slaughtered for its meat.
Authorities said they obtained surveillance video placing the suspect, Eladio Garcia-Gasca, at the scene of the crime. The video allegedly shows him walking up to the stables shortly before the animal was stolen.
“The surveillance video here was a major part in us being able to figure out who our person of interest was and eventually, our suspect. He was seen walking onto the property right at 11:34 PM on December 1, while on a cell phone walking around, he was then seen walking off the property with this horse. It was very devastating for the owners of this horse who found it that next morning,” said MCSO Public Information Officer Randy Warren.
Garcia-Gasca, 40, was arrested at his home in St. Petersburg Thursday and booked into the Pinellas County Jail. He is charged with grand theft and animal cruelty.
There have been similar crimes in the area within the last few years.
“Our detectives are still working on this quite a bit. We’ve got more to try to piece together here. We do not know if this is connected to any thefts of horses and slaughters in the area, we just don’t know,” said Warren.
Steve Stephens lives about a mile away from where the incident happened. He was victim to an eerily similar crime back in 2015. That case remains unsolved.
“This is probably the best news that I’ve gotten in forever,” said Stephens. “It can’t go on. This is horrible,” he continued.
Stephens says this latest arrest gives him hope that deputies will one day find who slaughtered his show horse.
“Our detectives are always very hopeful that we will be able to get some information from our suspect. It doesn’t always work out that way, but we are going to certainly try, we’re gonna keep asking questions, we are going to keep looking deeper into this investigation to see if there are other victims,” said Warren.