Local News

Neighbors complained for months about neglected horses

Posted February 8, 2010 5:18 p.m. EST
Updated February 8, 2010 7:12 p.m. EST

— Neighbors of a Duplin County farm where the carcasses of 13 horses were found Sunday morning said Monday that they had complained for months about neglected animals.

Patricia Brewer said her family rented the land on Tram Road, near Mount Olive, to 43-year-old Clifton Jacobs, who owned the horses.

"We tried to get the man evicted a number of times because of the neglect of the animals," Brewer said. "People have complained about the situation down here, and nothing was done."

Jacobs committed suicide Sunday, authorities said.

Brewer's brother, John Harvey Smith, was on the property Sunday when he stumbled across the dead horses.

"I came upon a dead horse, then I came upon another dead horse, then I came upon another dead horse," Smith said.

He said he found five dead horses in the woods and eight more in a barn. One of the horses had its neck on the rim of a water trough.

Although hay and 50-pound bags of feed were near the horses stalls, the animals had gone without food for so long that they began gnawing on small trees in the pasture, according to neighbors.

Duplin County Sheriff Blake Wallace said his deputies twice responded to complaints about the horses before Sunday.

"We found the horses somewhat underweight but in relative good health," Wallace said of the initial call last summer.

On Friday, he said, a deputy found similar conditions.

"Obviously, there was nothing that passed the deputy's suspicion at the time they went out there Friday. There were no dead carcasses that were in plain view," he said.

Representatives with the U.S. Humane Society accompanied deputies to the farm last summer, but the organization couldn't be reached Friday, Wallace said.

After Smith's discovery of the dead horses Sunday, deputies secured a search warrant and entered Jacobs' home after he refused to go outside.

Wallace said they found him in a back room with several high-powered rifles, and he fatally shot himself.

The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into Jacobs' death since deputies were in his home at the time.

Jacobs had a criminal record dating to 1993, with convictions for resisting arrest, assault on a female, larceny and driving offenses, according to state Department of Correction records.

Neighbors described Jacobs as a horse enthusiast who took good care of the horses until recent months.

Nine emaciated horses were rescued from the farm and were taken to a rehabilitation facility in Onslow County.