Tom Stewart and Rick Shanker want answers, and they’re willing to pay for them.
The two Columbia men, who have adjoining land on South Bearfield Road, have started a $1,000 reward fund for information that leads to the capture or conviction of the person responsible for shooting to death one of Stewart’s horses last month.
“I’m retired, and since then all I do is take care of my animals,” Stewart said. “This thing is a heinous act, and I think a lot of people feel something should be done.”
Stewart discovered his 5-year-old pregnant mare, April, dead of a gunshot wound between the eyes on Dec. 13. When Stewart told Shanker what had happened, Shanker was outraged and offered $500 to help find the shooter.
Boone County Sheriff’s deputies investigated April’s death and said the mare was shot with a high-powered rifle. The horse was about 45 feet from Bearfield Road, but investigators weren’t sure how close the shooter stood. Detective Mike Stubbs said the sheriff’s department has no leads in the horse’s shooting.
A person convicted of animal abuse, a class A misdemeanor, faces up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
Stewart’s friends and other neighbors have also asked to contribute to the reward fund, but he said he didn’t want to manage the fund.
“The people that offered the money, I thank them, but I didn’t want to handle it,” Stewart said. “It was a touchy subject, but I’m not one to take handouts.”
Stewart’s insurance agent, Kelly Veach, offered reward money. So did Ramsey Shouman, Stewart’s dentist. Both pledges were respectfully declined. Shouman said that as a sportsman, it worried him that people might think the crime was committed by a hunter.
“Tom is a friend of mine, and I think as a hunter it gives us a bad name having people go around doing those things,” he said. “I think most people see a hunter doing that kind of thing — but it’s not. It’s a vandal.”
Stewart’s not so sure. “It was someone who really knew how to handle a large weapon,” he said. “They could’ve used a spotlight to get the horse to stand still, too.”
Stewart and Shanker aren’t ruling out alternate explanations for April’s death.
“If this was intentional, then it’s worth it for me to convict this criminal,” said Shanker, who has horses on some land next to Stewart’s.
But it might not have been malicious, he said. “It was during the aftermath of deer season, and it’s a chance that it was a freak accident.”