Detectives arrested a 22-year-old Yelm woman Wednesday after she allegedly stole her boarder's horse, "Hellfire," then made up a story about two people impersonating sheriff's deputies and impounding the horse, according to the Thurston County Sheriff's Office.
A Thurston County Superior Court judge on Thursday found probable cause to support the allegation that Caitlyn Kennedy committed first-degree theft of livestock and criminal conspiracy. The judge allowed Kennedy to be released on her personal recognizance, meaning she did not have to post bail.
Thurston County Sheriff's Lt. Greg Elwin said detectives thought Kennedy's story about Hellfire being stolen from her farm on March 15 seemed fishy from the start. Kennedy's yarn about two individuals impersonating sheriff's deputies was repeated when she appeared on a recent KOMO-TV report talking about Hellfire's theft, Elwin added.
"She got in over her head and told one lie on top of another lie," Elwin said.
Elwin said detectives immediately found discrepancies in Kennedy's story. For example, she showed detectives video footage of the "sheriff's deputies" driving up to her farm in the 15000 block of 123rd Avenue in Yelm at about 7 p.m. on March 15 - but it was too dark to identify a license plate number on the vehicle they were driving, or much of anything else from the footage. Elwin said it should not have been pitch black outside at 7 p.m. in mid-March in Thurston County.
Kennedy also said the individuals purporting to be sheriff's deputies gave her paperwork authorizing them to take Hellfire. Kennedy later gave Hellfire's rightful owner a forged seizure document that she claimed had been given to her by the "deputies."
"None of that happened," Elwin said Thursday.
Elwin said Lt. Mike Ware, who has contacts with the community of horse owners throughout Thurston County, put out feelers trying to find Hellfire's whereabouts. Hellfire was located safe this past weekend at a pasture in south Thurston County, Elwin said.
When detectives had Kennedy come to the sheriff's office Wednesday, she initially stuck to her story, but eventually gave Detective Mike Hirte a full confession, Elwin said.
Hellfire's rightful owner, Amanda Fischer-Williams, 22, said she is glad to have her mare back. She said she purchased the horse about three months ago. Hellfire had been boarded with the suspect for the entire time she's owned her, she said.
Fischer-Williams said she had considered Kennedy a friend. "I just don't understand the reasons behind it," she said. "She made a mistake, but I don't believe she's a bad person." Fischer-Williams said she has been around horses her whole life, and has always wanted to own one.
Fischer-Williams added that Hellfire "always had food, always had water," and is well taken care of.
Elwin said the motive for Kennedy's alleged theft was to simply take the horse for a friend, who has been identified and questioned by sheriff's deputies. The accomplice will likely also be charged after detectives refer the case to the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Elwin said.
Kennedy and her friend felt like the owner of the horse wasn't taking care of it, but Elwin said Thursday that "our evaluation of the horse, is that the horse is in good condition."
Detectives took Kennedy's allegations about individuals impersonating sheriff's deputies very seriously, because that would be a very serious public safety issue, Elwin said.
Elwin added that livestock theft is very rare in Thurston County.
Fischer-Williams said Thursday that "My horse is home, that's all I wanted in the end."
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org