Joe Arpaio's crack team of animal-crimes investigators remain flummoxed over the shooting death of Dotty the Salt River wild horse, according a report recently released by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Dotty was the 12-year-old mare found dead and floating on October 1 in the Salt River near Coon Bluff, a recreation area in the Tonto National Forest.
Later identified by her distinctive markings, she was one of several such horses to have become the subject of controversy, with the U.S. Forest Service's seeking to remove them from federal land, then backing off the plan once equine lovers pitched a fit.
Yet, despite the MCSO's offer of an $8,000 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever put three rounds into Dotty's head, the agency's 11-page report states that the investigation officially has been "inactive" since November.
Joaquin Enriquez, a spokesman for the MCSO, confirmed to New Times that the investigation is at a standstill.
"We have exhausted the leads that have come in on this case," Enriquez said.
According to the report, Todd Renfrow, a member of the volunteer Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, informed the MCSO of the dead horse and the holes in its head at the beginning of October. Initially, MCSO Deputy M. Stedman told Renfrow that the case would be the responsibility of the Forest Service or the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Police Department.
Nonetheless, Deputy Stedman visited the site, observing the "significant amount of vultures in the area," and describing the horse carcass with its feet up, along the north river bank. Stedman contacted the Tonto National Forest Service, and an agent came to check out the scene.
The deputy turned over the investigation to the Forest Service agent and later was told that the Forest Service had decided to leave the carcass where it was and "allow nature to take its course."
On October 6, MCSO Deputy H. Redman, along with deputies and investigators from the Arizona Department of Agriculture, took an air boat to the horse's location "in an attempt to determine if the animal had in fact been shot," according to the report.
The party discovered Dotty in an "advanced state of decomposition," with "skin slipping from the body."
Redman looked for holes in the head, ultimately removing it from the body "for x-rays and further examination."
The head then was "packaged in several plastic bags and transported to the Animal Crimes office," where it was placed in a refrigerator and padlocked.
The MCSO left the horse's carcass where it had been found, in the water.
Though MCSO spokeswoman Lisa Allen previously informed New Times that the MCSO had been advised to remove the horse's head for examination by veterinarians, there is no indication of this advice in the report.
Allen also told New Times that a necropsy had not been performed on the headless carcass. The report tells a different tale.
On October 7, according to the report, the MCSO contacted Dr. Nancy Bradley, a veterinarian at the Arizona Humane Society, "to perform an examination of the skull from the case."
Bradley informed the MCSO that state Representative Kelly Townsend had beaten the agency to the punch by contacting Dr. Alexandra Brower, a vet at Midwestern University's College of Veterinary Medicine in Glendale, and both were en route to perform a necropsy on the now-headless Dotty.
Learning of this, MCSO deputies accompanied the vets to Coon Bluff, where the horse still was "floating with the left side exposed." The report states that the deputies used their air boats to drag the carcass across the river to "a sandy beach area," where the vets performed a necropsy.
Brower told deputies that the carcass was that of a "well-nourished" female, with no external or internal injuries, and that she had "found nothing that would have caused this horse to die."
There's no mention of a bullet wound in the carcass. The MCSO has yet to release the actual necropsy report.
"The remains of the horse were left on the beach to be disposed of," the MCSO report states.
As of January 24, Dotty's remains still were on that sandy bank, on the south side of the Salt River near a well-trafficked campsite.
After the necropsy on the carcass, the MCSO took Dotty's skull to Glendale for examination by Brower.
Afterward, the MCSO retrieved the skull and "properly disposed of" it.
A feat the agency was not able to accomplish with Dotty's rotting carcass.