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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:31 a.m., Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Help sought in arson case that killed horses

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dr. Becky Rhoades poses with Mulligan, a thoroughbred killed in the blaze.

They can't imagine how anyone could have done it, but someone did.

Someone set fire to a horse barn in Maunawili late Nov. 27, killing Mulligan and Gentleman Joe, two thoroughbred horses trapped in their stalls.

Now the police hope the public can help them find the arsonist. And as painful as it is to talk about it, Dr. Becky Rhoades and Sheri Schnack will do anything they can to support the investigation.

Schnack and her husband, Mike, bought Gentleman Joe three years ago as a gift for their daughter, Nicole. Now 17, Nicole had spent hours every day caring for her horse, hours more entering him in dressage and riding shows. She had planned to take him with her to enter the equestrian program at college.

The barn had been built as a family project, but it's the death of a family member that they truly mourn.

"It's like I lost a kid," Sheri Schnack said. "There was a bond there... I really feel violated and lost."

Rhoades, now executive director of the Kaua'i Humane Society, was unavailable for comment today. However, she was a longtime veterinary chief at the Hawaiian Humane Society, and people there realize how Rhoades must feel.

"I can't tell you how much she loved that horse," said Eve Holt, spokeswoman for the humane society. She recalled how Rhoades bolted from the office the moment she was told the mare was giving birth to Mulligan, a horse she's owned for all his eight years.

The crime occurred at about 11 p.m. at Maunawili Farm, 1015 Auloa Road. The fire had started to spread to an adjacent stable structure, but the horse in that facility was freed.

The losses of the animals, as well as the destruction of the buildings, was estimated at $100,000. Investigators found traces of flammable fluid, indicating the fire was maliciously set.

CrimeStoppers offers rewards of up to $1,000 for information that helps solve crimes. In this case, tips are sought by police Detective Robert Cravalho, at 529-3873; or, anonymous tips can be phoned in to CrimeStoppers at 955-8300 (or *CRIME on a cellular phone).