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Humane Society holds meeting to explain wrongful death of horse

By By Lisa Tindell
An emotional Renee Jones explained the death of Abby Friday before members of the media at Flomaton Town Hall.
Jones, who serves as the cruelty to animal’s investigator for the Escambia County Humane Society, said the death of the show horse was intentional by the owner, Brenda Gradia.
Gradia, the owner of the horse, has been charged with animal cruelty, arson, and two counts of attempted theft by deception and one count of theft by deception.
Ed Faulk, Alabama state fire marshal, said the death of the horse led to Gradia’s arrest following initial investigation by Flomaton police officers. “The Flomaton Fire Department, along with the Flomaton police chief, responded to barn fire on May 23,” Faulk said. “After the fire was extinguished, those on the scene noticed something unusual and alerted out office.”
Flomaton Police Chief Mike Lambert said his department knew the case was over their head based on the evidence found at the scene of the fire. “We got in over our heads pretty quick with this case,” Lambert said. “We are fortunate that we have such great agencies available to us that allowed us to take this case further and make this arrest.” Faulk said his department’s investigation turned up evidence that required a post mortem examination be performed on the animal. “When the horse was examined in the barn area, evidence found led us to believe that the horse wasn’t alive at the time of the fire,” Faulk said. “Possible fraud evidence was also discovered. Several search warrants were issued as a result of that discovery which culminated in the arrest of the suspect.”
Dr. Brad Fields with the department of Agriculture and Industries for the state of Alabama, said the case continued through his agency with a post mortem examination.
Lambert said Gradia owned seven horses at the time of the fire including Abby.
Gradia faces a sentence of two to 20 years if found guilty of arson in this case. The theft by deception charge is a Class B felony while the attempted theft and the animal cruelty charges are misdemeanors. Officials say Gradia fraudulently collected $30,000 for the death of a horse in December 2007. The recently deceased Abby, was insured for $100,000.