Another horrendous horse death has occurred, this time at Imperial Farms in Manatee County. The large show jumper was butchered not far from his own stall in a nearby area on the property. The 12-year-old prize horse named Phedras de Blondel, estimated to weigh around 1,300 pounds, was a recent purchase from Germany by Debbie Stephens of Imperial Farms Equestrian Center in rural Palmetto. The valuable prized horse was stolen out of his stall during the early hours of Oct. 25, led to a nearby pen, and butchered. The remains of Phedras were found in the back pen with legs missing and the meat cut away with only the head and neck left intact.
Well-known riders in the show jumping world, both Debbie Stephens and Steve Stephens have a lifetime of being passionate about horses. Debbie Stephens holds the all-time women’s high jump record with a huge jump of 7’8”. Phedras de Blondel was going to be her future competitive jumping superstar. Steve Stephens has owned Imperial Farms since the 1960s, and is an accomplished horseman as well who has been show manager, coach trainer, judge and course designer. He is no stranger to high show jumping, having jumped 7’1” at Madison Square Garden, NY, in 1968.
Imperial Farms, situated on 27 acres on Gillet Road near Moccasin Wallow Road, is a large facility that can stable up to 32 horses. The well-equipped show stable bustles with horse activities, training, care and feeding of its horse athletes.
According to lead investigator Dave Bristow of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, a full probe into Phedras’ killing and the gruesome crime scene was started on Sunday afternoon. At this time, no perpetrators have been named. Bristow surmises that the criminals wanted horse meat and chose to kill Phedras on account of his size. Bristow said,
We are hoping someone saw something unusual, an unusual car or truck in the area. The farm is not that far from the highway. We have never had a case like this that I can remember. It’s grisly.
Charges will be brought to the perpetrator or perpetrators for occupied burglary, grand theft and cruelty to animals.
Steve Stephens told news source, Bradenton Herald, that they want to openly talk about this grisly event to warn neighbors with animals to be informed and aware so this will not happen to them.
These people came to butcher this horse out. They didn’t just come with those sharp knives for nothing. They had all intentions of doing what they did. They knew what they were going to do. This was a horse farm. I don’t think he was targeted specifically. Maybe they went by size. . .But to go to the trouble of taking him out of his stall, leading him down a path, taking him to the far property that is sort of out of sight, and then do what they did.
The property had camera security. As yet, Stephens was not sure what it captured. He will now greatly enhance property security and cautions neighbors with horses to beef up their security, too.
There are no further details offered at this time. Anyone that can share any information in this case is requested to get in touch with Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 941-747-3011. Crime Stoppers can also be called anonymously at 866-634-TIPS.
View video about the crime with Sheriff’s Office and also Steve Stephens – click here.
Updated 10/26 4:31 p.m. to add most current video to this article.