Questions Remain as Dept. of Agriculture Moves to Close Investigation of Death

The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has made a preliminary decision that cruelty did not play a role in the death of a Lyme show horse at a Marlborough barn last month, but the owner of the horse has questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, saying that she still has not been told the location of the body.

“I have not been able to find any evidence of cruelty in the matter,” Tanya Wescovich, the state animal control officer, wrote Dana Ramsey Maxwell, owner of the 7-year-old horse, Beatrix, in an email this week. “Both the state’s veterinarian and Dr. Sears feels [sic] that from the account of the incident that Beatrix died from an aneurysm and without a necropsy there is no evidence to disprove that. I am very sorry for your loss.”

It remains unclear what, if any, examination was performed on the body of the horse. Beatrix, was a registered Hanoverian and a champion hunter-jumper under the name “By All Means.”

Attempts on Friday to reach Dr. Jane Lewis, State Veterinarian at the Department of Agriculture, and Dr. Scott Sears, who was called by the barn’s owner the day of incident, on Sept. 3,  were unsuccessful.   

A spokesperson for the department declined further comment, citing the ongoing investigation. The barn’s owner has not responded to multiple requests for comment by CT Examiner. 

Maxwell filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture on Sept. 13, after contacting state police and after several failed attempts by her lawyer to learn where Beatrix was buried.

Maxwell said she has many questions about the process of the investigation, among them that Wescovich never formally interviewed her.

Wescovich, who told Maxwell this week that she was still finishing up her investigation, has not informed Maxwell of the location of the body, and indicated that she has not examined the body in the course of the investigation.

“As we discussed, I was informed of where the body was buried and would view the body only if need be,” Wescovich wrote to Maxwell in an email this week.

Maxwell told Wescovich this week that if the State would not exhume and perform a necropsy on Beatrix, she would like to be allowed to in order to confirm the body’s identity and potentially reveal evidence of the cause of death.

Maxwell said the State could positively identify the body by scanning for a microchip she said was implanted in Beatrix, but it is unclear if that has been done.  

Wescovich also told Maxwell that she had not checked to see whether the barn had surveillance video of the incident, until Maxwell asked about it this week.

Maxwell said she has been told by a former boarder at the barn that the facility has several surveillance cameras.

“When I was at the barn, I did not observe any cameras,” Wescovich replied to Maxwell by email, but said that she planned to return to the barn this week to confirm that.

“Unfortunately,” Wescovich told Maxwell, “there is the possibility with the delayed reporting of the death, that any footage may be gone.”

Maxwell criticized the investigation and communication by the Department as disorganized and unserious. 

“I’m just bewildered that the tone of the investigation seems so casual,” she said.  “I feel like there’s so much they’re not taking seriously.”

Maxwell learned of the death on Sept. 3 from a Haddam woman who was leasing Beatrix and boarding the horse at the Marlborough barn.

She told Maxwell that the barn had notified her Beatrix had died of a suspected aneurysm that morning after shaking and rearing up while being led to a barn from an outdoor paddock, where she had spent the night.

According to Maxwell, the barn owner gave her essentially the same account when they spoke the next day by phone, but also mentioned that there was significant bleeding from the horse’s nose and ears.  

According to Maxwell the transporter she hired to remove Beatrix from the barn property told her that the body was covered in blood, extremely bloated, in apparent advanced rigor mortis, and appeared to have met a violent death.

The transporter has subsequently refused to provide Maxwell with the location of the body, and Wescovich has told Maxwell that the transporter denies telling Maxwell that she suspected violence. 

On Sept. 4, the transporter texted Maxwell a photograph of a horse strapped to a wooden pallet with its head tied to its tail by a chain around the neck, under a tarp on a trailer being pulled by a vehicle. That photograph has been reviewed by CT Examiner.

“Here’s picture,” reads the text. “Like I said you can’t see much because she’s covered. What I saw was a very bloated horse with legs sticking straight out. There was blood coming out her ears.” 

Maxwell provided the photo and accompanying text to Wescovich.

Maxwell said the tarp over the body makes it unclear whether the horse on the trailer is in fact Beatrix. The distinctive white stripe, or blaze, on the front of the horse’s head is not entirely visible in the photo.

“It could be Beatrix, but I honestly am not 100 percent sure,” Maxwell said. “There is nothing I can identify her with in the photo but an obscured blaze that does not match her blaze.”

Maxwell also questions why Beatrix’s head was tied to her tail in the photograph, a technique she said is typically used to remove a body from a small space such as a stall, as opposed to in an open area where the barn said the horse died.

Still, Maxwell maintains hope that the investigation’s final report will answer her questions.

“I know something happened to that horse,” she said, “and I’m hopeful that eventually the truth will come out.”

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