Those familiar with the history of the Vietnam War may recall that infamous line reputedly uttered by a U.S. Army major about a bombed-out South Vietnamese city, to the effect that American forces had to "destroy the town in order to save it."
Same could be said of Mercedes the mare, whom Sheriff Joe Arpaio's crack animal-crimes unit saved from starvation, only to have the veterinarian on contract with the MCSO euthanize her days later because she was in such bad shape.
According to an MCSO press release, Mercedes was one of two horses confiscated February 5, from a Litchfield Park residence, the other being a black gelding named Coal.
Both animals were hundreds of pounds underweight, as can be seen in photographs released by the sheriff's PR staff. However, Coal fared slightly better in MCSO custody, gaining a few pounds back, the MCSO assures in its release, and for the moment escaping a one-way ticket to horse heaven.
Court records state that the mother of four who owned the animals, Amber Dahl, admitted to an MCSO detective that she couldn't "keep weight on the horses," and that the animals looked "worse than when she first got them."
Dahl, 30, says she purchased the animals last year after seeing them on Craigslist and since had tried to return them or give them away with no success. She voluntarily "agreed to surrender them to the MCSO." Now, never mind that the MCSO itself offed the ailing Mercedes, and even in the MCSO's care, the prognosis for Coal's life remains "guarded at this time," according to court documents: An investigation without an arrest is a waste to Arpaio's deputies.
So, these same court documents read, the MCSO arrested Dahl this week "at her place of employment" and booked her into Fourth Avenue Jail on two felony counts of animal cruelty.
She later was released on her own recognizance.
Arresting officer Marie Trombi's probable-cause statement relates that Dahl told investigators: "There were times when she would have to feed the horses smaller amounts of food in order to make it last until she got paid again."
No doubt Dahl wishes she never bought the horses, never talked so openly to Trombi, and never relinquished the animals to the MCSO's care.
You may recall Marie Trombi, kin to Arpaio's executive chief, Dave Trombi, as the animal-crimes detective who was accused of misleading grand jurors in the Green Acres Dog Boarding case in 2014.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
As a result, criminal charges against Austin Flake, son of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, and Austin's then-wife, Logan, were thrown out, and Austin Flake is suing Arpaio and Maricopa County in federal court.
Interestingly, the MCSO's press release brags at one point:
"Sheriff’s detectives have responded to 191 Cruelty and neglect cases involving horses. In that period detectives had 21 investigative cases and made 20 arrests of suspects, seizing and saving 26 horses from
Well, save for Mercedes, of course.