Three men charged after a feral horse was shot and killed west of Sundre almost two years ago will be back in court on April 27 after their trial was unexpectedly adjourned last week.
Jason Nixon, 30, Cary Cape, 36, and Earl Anderson, 41, each faces a charge of unlawfully killing a horse and careless use of a firearm. A 14-year-old boy also faces the same charge, although he is being tried separately.
A pregnant mare was shot and killed on a hillside near Mountain Aire Lodge west of Sundre in April 2009.
The trial for the three men got underway before Judge Cheryl Daniel in Calgary provincial court on April 5. They had each pleaded not guilty in Didsbury provincial court earlier.
The trial, which was scheduled to last four days, was adjourned on April 6.
During the April 6 court session, lawyer Don MacLeod, who represents Anderson, told Judge Daniel that the defence had provided the Crown with new information pertaining to the case against all three adult accused.
Calling the information “significant,” MacLeod told the judge the Crown agreed to the adjournment to allow the prosecution to review the information and conduct further investigation. MacLeod did not specify what the information is.
Crown prosecutor Gordon Haight told the judge he agreed to the adjournment.
Outside court, Nixon said he is confident he will be exonerated of all charges.
“I did not shoot any horse,” said Nixon, who is the former executive director of Mountain Aire Lodge.
Nixon said while he is disappointed with the delay in the trial, he is glad the trial process is now underway.
“I would have liked this to end today. My family has been through hell, both emotionally and financially,” he said.
Outside court Nixon's lawyer, Willie DeWit, called the information provided by defence to the Crown “very important,” “pretty significant” and relative to the charges against all three accused. He declined to say what that information is.
Outside court, MacLeod reiterated his comments that the information is pertinent to the charges against all three accused.
“We feel this is a significant development,” said MacLeod. “Now it is up to the Crown to decide what to do.”
MacLeod declined to say when the defence came into possession of the new information.
Outside court, prosecutor Haight said he would be reviewing the information prior to the April 27 court date. He declined to comment further on the case.
It will be up to the Crown to decide whether the information should result in the charges against the accused being dropped, he said.
Neither Cape nor Anderson made comments following court.
Bob Henderson, president of the Olds-based Wild Horses of Alberta Society, attended last week's court sessions. He said he has been subpoenaed to testify in the case.
He said two individuals have made claims for a $25,000 reward offered by WHOAS for information leading to the conviction of the persons or person responsible for the April 2009 horse shooting. He said any reward money would only be paid out following a conviction.
The court case, Henderson said, has garnered a lot of public attention to the feral or wild horses west of Sundre. WHOAS is calling for the provincial government to give the horses their own designation.
“More and more people are becoming aware of the horses,” Henderson said.
Heather Anderson, leader of the Delegates Against Inhumane Suffering (DAISY) animal rights group, attended both court sessions last week. Outside court she said the group is following the case because “we are here to be a voice for the horses.”
She said the group plans to attend all future court dates.
Several dozen of the feral horses have been shot and left west of Sundre since 2002.
Sundre RCMP Sgt. Percy Leipnitz says police are continuing to seek public tips about those shootings.
“Our investigation is ongoing,” said Leipnitz. “If something comes up we will look at it. We are still actively collecting information on them and looking into them.”
Anyone with information about feral horse shootings west of Sundre is being asked to call Sundre RCMP at (403) 638-3675 or Crimes Stoppers.