Mysterious Death, Missing Body Spark Department of Agriculture Investigation

Dana Ramsey Maxwell with two of her horses in Lyme, CT


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The mysterious, bloody death and burial of a show horse owned by a Lyme woman at a “luxury” boarding facility in Marlborough early this month has led to an investigation by the state Department of Agriculture.

Dana Ramsey Maxwell says she has had nothing but unanswered questions about the fate of her 7-year-old registered Hanoverian, Beatrix, since she received a text message on Sept. 3 telling her the horse had died that morning.

Calls and messages to the stable have not yet been returned.

“I just want answers,” said Maxwell, who has raised and shown horses since she was a child.

“It’s been more than three weeks since Beatrix died and it seems to me there is still an awful lot wrong with this picture.”

Maxwell had owned Beatrix for five years, and had been leasing her to a Haddam woman who began boarding her at the Marlborough barn on Aug. 31.

On Sept. 3, Maxwell received a text from the woman leasing Beatrix saying that she had just been notified of Beatrix’s death. 

According to Maxwell, the woman told her that the horse had died that morning after having some sort of episode about 7:30 a.m. while being led by a worker along a gravel road from a paddock to a barn.

“They told her Beatrix started shaking and then reared up and just fell dead to the ground,” Maxwell recalled. “They said it looked like she had an aneurysm.”

Initially not suspecting anything was amiss, Maxwell that same morning contacted a horse transporter she knew to retrieve the body and bury it at a site in Newtown.

“At that point, I had no reason to believe anything was wrong,” Maxwell said.

All that changed, she said, when she texted the transporter early the next morning asking how the pickup and burial of Beatrix had gone.

Beatrix (Courtesy of Dana Ramsey Maxwell)

The transporter, according to Maxwell, told her in a subsequent phone call that when she arrived at stable the previous afternoon, Beatrix’s body was extremely bloated with its legs rigid – typical signs of rigor mortis, or progressive stiffening and bloating of the corpse.

But the extreme rigor mortis the transporter observed, according to Maxwell, seemed too advanced with the alleged time of Beatrix’s death about eight hours earlier.

The transporter also was struck, Maxwell said, by the amount of blood still flowing from the horse’s nose and ears when she picked up the body.

“I had not heard anything about blood until that awful call,” Maxwell said. “She told me it just didn’t look right, that this was not a fresh death and that it looked violent – like maybe a human had picked a fight with Beatrix.”

When the conversation ended, Maxwell said she called her attorney to relay what she now considered a suspicious or possibly criminal cause of Beatrix’s death.

By the time she got back in touch with the transporter later the same day, she said, the transporter not only denied telling her the death seemed suspicious, but also refused to say where Beatrix was.  

“I had planned to go to where Beatrix was buried with a veterinarian and someone to video,” Maxwell said. “I wanted the vet to radiograph her skull and look for incisions of an unauthorized necropsy and whether her ovaries were present.”

The question about ovaries stems from the practice of “genetic rescue,” in which a deceased mare’s ovaries can be removed in order to fertilize the eggs in a laboratory and then implanted in recipient mares that will carry a foal – a potentially lucrative process.

Beatrix, whose show name was By All Means, was a champion hunter/jumper who Maxwell described as extremely athletic, “sassy” and highly intelligent.

On Sept. 9, Maxwell’s attorney wrote a letter to the transporter demanding to know the location of Beatrix’s body, warning that sanctions would be sought against her if she did not comply.

After several days went by with no response, Maxwell contacted state police.

She said they referred her to animal-control officers at the state Department of Agriculture, which handles most cases of suspected animal cruelty.

Maxwell contacted the department on Sept. 13, and detailed her suspicions in a subsequent series of phone calls and emails.

As of this week, Maxwell said she was told by the Agriculture Department that an investigation was being conducted, but that any signs of potential abuse on Beatrix’s body may have been compromised or destroyed by decomposition since she was buried.

Rebecca Eddy, a spokeswoman for the department, told the CT Examiner this week that “this matter is currently under investigation and we have no further comment at this time.”

As the weeks wear on since Beatrix’s death, Maxwell is growing increasingly frustrated at being no closer to knowing how she died or where she is buried than the day of the incident at the barn.

She says the transporter has agreed to tell her the location of Beatrix’s body – but only if Maxwell signs a release of liability promising not to sue the transporter.

“I’m not signing anything like that,” Maxwell said. “And why would they want a release if nothing wrong has been done? Beatrix was a super-special horse that was part of our family, and I know many others are mourning her loss. To have her final resting place kept from me makes it hard to get closure, but having it hinder an abuse investigation just adds insult to injury.”

Steve Jensen

Steve Jensen was a journalist for 13 years with the Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer of Manchester before becoming a Communications Director for the State of Connecticut. Jensen covers politics and law enforcement for CT Examiner. T: 860 661-6404