A 31-year-old Hartly man has been arrested for sexually abusing ponies at Carousel Park and Equestrian Center.
New Castle County Police say they have arrested Michael Riego in connection with a series of assaults going back to last year.
Police first became aware of injured horses at the center since February. On multiple occasions, park staff reported arriving at work to find lesson ponies with cords tied around their legs just above the hoof.
One of these incidents resulted in a 17-year-old black and white mare having an injury to her rear legs and difficulty walking. Investigators discovered a similar incident had also been reported in September of 2019.
This incident involved another pony, a 20-year-old mare. She was found in the morning to have a length of cord tied around one of her rear legs causing the pony to be in severe pain.
Detectives reviewed the security footage and saw an unknown white male wearing a dark jacket enter the barn after midnight on the nights in question. It was determined that this was the same suspect from the previous incidents.
On Monday, April 20th, detectives were notified of another assault on a 31-year-old brown mare. When they reviewed this footage from the surveillance system, they observed the same male suspect retrieving a feed bucket from the barn and entering the mare’s stall.
The suspect was observed tying up the mare’s rear legs, removing articles of clothing, and ultimately sexually assaulting the horse. Due to clothing covering the face, the suspect was still not able to be identified.
Investigators enhanced electronic surveillance equipment at the facility and began to conduct nightly surveillance.
Earlier yesterday morning, at approximately 12:30 a.m., detectives from the Special Investigations Squad were conducting surveillance of the stables and observed a male suspect looking into another pony’s stall. The suspect was then observed entering the stall and tying up the rear legs of the pony. When the detectives entered the stall, they discovered Riego hiding in the corner and he was subsequently taken into custody.
Riego was charged with two counts of felony Bestiality and two counts of felony Burglary 3rd. The investigation is still ongoing and additional charges are anticipated.
All of the ponies were treated by an equine veterinarian and have resumed normal daily activities.
Police say this is an ongoing investigation, “and based on information learned by detectives a concern surfaced that there may be more animals victimized.” Detectives are asking anyone with any information pertaining to this investigation or farmers that may know or have had hired Michael Riego to contact Det. Lucas at (302) 395-8110 or via email at Brian.Lucas@newcastlede.gov or by calling the New Castle County Division of Police non-emergency number at 302-573-2800 or via messenger on Facebook.