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Wild Horse Spirit, Ltd.

   1998 Christmas Holiday Slaughter of approximately
        34 Nevada Virginia Range Wild Horses

"The Story - as we experienced it"

                    4-7-2001 TRIAL of Three Suspects Charged Update and Go to Chronology.  
                      Trial Date set to begin 1-7-2002.   12-22-2001  12-23-2001-HELP!  
   1-5-2002 Plea-Bargaining.  1-7-2002 No Trial.   2-11-2002 Sentencing.
  RETURN to Slaughter Scene on 5-21-99 and on 9-4-99.
                        10-1-99 Nevada SB 396 NOW a Class C Felony to kill wild horses
   See below Video/Sound Clip SURVIVOR BACHELOR STALLION...saga in a nutshell!!!.
                               WILD HORSES? To See More About

"The Story - As We Experienced It on December 27, 1998."
     Sunday afternoon, 12-27-98, at approximately 1:05PM, Wild Horse Spirit was contacted by Washoe County Animal Control regarding a report that a young horse was shot and wounded around Rattlesnake 12-27-98 Hope, 6 months old filly critically wounded & paralyzed, could only manage to dig a hole in the ground with her front legs Mountain area near Reno. Reportedly two other horses were dead. We met with a Washoe Animal Control officer, a Washoe County Sheriff and followed the person who reported the shootings into the Virginia Range Mountains east of Reno to the location. We weren’t prepared for what we finally witnessed. These wild horses were the first six of what evolved, over the next several days, into approximately 34 wild horses killed.  A holiday massacre.

The critically wounded filly, "Hope", who we had been called to help, had managed to dig a small hole into the ground with her front feet, but couldn't move her hind legs. This courageous, 6 month old little filly was alive but had been shot in the back injuring her spinal cord. Her backHope, just before she was euthanized 12-27-98 legs were completely paralyzed. She had been lying in that one spot, probably one, maybe two days. She had intermittently struggled to get up using her front legs, but couldn’t. Sadly, there was nothing we could do for her.  "Hope" was critically injured and was euthanized by the officer. 

Five other dead horses found that afternoon included a 4 month old stud colt (#4), we named "Alvin", 12-27-98 Alvin, 4-month old colt, sprayed by defendants who had been sprayed with a whitish material over the mouth, nose, eyes, and genital and rectal areas. The remaining horses were a nursing mare (#9) and her 6 to 7 month old filly (#10) and two stallions (#8 and #11).  Thanks to the Washoe County Officer Spratley, an excellent investigation began at that time while other authorities were notified.  We left the scene around 5PM, with Washoe County Animal Control and Officer Spratley following, as it was getting dark.  We arrived at the Lockwood Store where Storey County officials began to arrive.  Eventually, the investigative officials labeled "Hope" as #7.  (Go to Spiritual Writings).

     12-27-98 survivor bachelor stallion finally walks away from his dead buddy 12-27-98 (left) After staying close to his slaughtered friend #11, a SURVIVOR bachelor stallion finally walks skittishly away from his dead buddy, going down the dirt road..  He kept a cautious eye on me as he passed. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO/SOUND CLIP (Go to Spiritual Writings.) (QUOTE:  "God bless you. They just won't leave you alone")

We understand, the REWARD is an accumulative $25,000 leading to the arrest & conviction of the person(s) responsible. EVEN NOW IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS, Call Secret Witness at (775) 322-4900, with any information about this crime.  Or call us and we will refer you to the proper officials.

Return to Slaughter Scene 5-21-99 (5 months later)

5-21-99 Remains of the sprayed 4 months old colt amongst beautiful green spring forage where he died 5-21-99 A Cross lays where the sprayed 4-month-old colt died

5-21-99 (above) Five months later--Return to the slaughter scene.  Remains of the 4-month-old colt that was sprayed. This colt, we later named ALVIN, was labeled horse #4 by the prosecution (see below). Beautiful green forage is growing where he died -a tribute from Mother Nature to him.  A stone Cross now lays where the colt died.

5-21-99 A large stone cross lays at base of large Pinon Pine in memory of the wild ones slaughtered

5-21-99 (left) large stone Cross lays at the base of a large old Pinon Pine tree in memory of the wild ones slaughtered during the 1998 Christmas holidays.  On this day, no wild horses had yet returned to the slaughter area.

Wild Horses finally Return to the 
Slaughter Scene 9-4-99 (8 months later)

9-4-99 Wild horses finally return to the slaughter scene 9-4-99 9 months after the slaughter, a stallion stands respectfully close to the remains of his friends and families who were slaughtered during 1998 Christmas holidays

September 4, 1999, wild horses who survived, finally return to slaughter scene of their friends and families.

12-27-2001 Update Photos coming soon.
                          Return To Slaughter Scene 3 years later. 


  12-27-98 the first 6 of a total of 34 wild horses were found Sunday afternoon in the Virginia  Range Mountains in an area just east of Hidden Valley community, Reno/Sparks, Nevada.

         1-15-99 Anthony Merlino was arraigned and 2-1-99 Darien Brock and Scott Brendle were arraigned in Virginia City,  Storey

  9-1-99, 9-2-99, and 9-3-99 the pre-hearing trial was held before the Justice of Peace in Virginia City, Nevada.  

  3-9-2000 District Judge Michael Griffin removed all charges except one gross misdemeanor charge, horse #12, which carried a penalty by Nevada law up to one year in the county jail and a fine up to $2000.  

  4-15 and 4-16-2000 at the time jury selection for the trial began, District Court Judge Michael Griffin determined, after a contested "secret hearing" closed to both the press and public, that the suspects could not get a fair trial in Storey County and moved the trial to Carson City, Nevada, to begin November 1, 2000, on horse #12. 

  4-26-2000 Storey Co Assistant D.A., Sharon Claassen, filled notice to Nevada Supreme Court  that Storey Co would appeal Judge Griffin’s decision that threw out all counts except for horse #12.

  10-5-2000 Storey Co Assistant D.A., Sharon Claassen argued before a panel of three Nevada Supreme Court Justices, Shearing, Becker and Maupin, in Virginia City, Nevada: 
         To reinstate the charges for the other 21 horses and
        As a “reasonable argument” that NRS 193.155 applied to this case and allowed for the
           aggregation of the horses value ($5000 or more), to increase the penalty to a category C felony.
    See Nevada Supreme Court decision below 4-7-2001.

  11-3-2000 Nevada Press Association (NPA), Reno Gazette Journal, Nevada Appeal, and Associated Press, filed a friend-of-the court brief with the Nevada Supreme Court to force District  Judge Griffin to provide the press and public with immediate access to the transcripts of the “secret” closed proceeding of 4-14-2000 in Virginia City.

  Hearsay – The Petition filed by NPA (above) to the NV Supreme Court to find Judge Griffin’s closing of the “confession suppression” hearing on April 14, 1999, inappropriate, was denied.

  12-1-2000 Hearsay – NPA (above), the petitioners, filed for a rehearing to the NV Supreme Court. 

UPDATE  4-7-2001 Nevada Supreme Court panel decided Friday to return 1-15-99 Storey County Court House -taken the day the first suspect, Merlino, was arraigned in Virginia City NV the case to Carson District Judge Mike Griffin, saying he could allow persecutors to file SEVEN more gross misdemeanor charges against former Lance Cpls. Scott Brendle and Darien Brock and their former Wooster High friend, Anthony Merlino.  That’s in addition to one gross misdemeanor count (horse #12) per defendant that Griffin had allowed earlier. Storey Co Assistant D.A., Sharon Claassen announced that they would file new charges to include the seven horses and the previously upheld horse #12 and then set a trial date.  

TRIAL DATE set to begin January 7, 2002, with jury selection with trial ending January 22, 2002 in District Court Judge Michael Griffin in Carson City, Nevada. Suspects, Merlino, Brock, and Brendle, Reno high school classmates are charged with eight gross misdemeanors, one for each of the eight wild horses, #12, #9, #15, #16, #17, #19, #23 and #24, shot and killed and re-instated by the Nevada Supreme Court panel on 4-7-2001.

UPDATE 12-22-2001. Virginia City NV-Two of the three men, Anthony Merlino and Scott Brendle, accused in the 1998 Christmas-time slaughter of more than 30 wild horses near Virginia city are expected to enter plea agreements to lesser chargers, said Storey County Deputy D.A. Sharon Claassen on Thursday.  Merlino's attorney said, "Mr. Merlino is looking forward to getting THIS behind him."
(Justice for the slaughtered wild horses will NOT  be served if Storey County accepts plea bargaining to "lesser" charges as the current charges are already minimal.  The trial should proceed in a Court of Law with presentation of all evidence before a jury who will then decide the charges against the three suspects in behalf of all 8 horses.)
See Nevada Appeal Article 12-22-2001 in its entirety.

1-5-2002 UPDATE:  

 Re:  “Change of Plea” 98 Christmas holiday slaughter

 We spoke with Storey County District Attorney’s office on 1-3-2002.  A woman said there will be NO trial.  But there will be a “Change of Plea” to be presented before District Court Judge Michael Griffin at 1PM on 1-7-2002, Department 1, at Carson City District Court.  The trial was scheduled to begin on 1-7-2002 with jury selection.

 Apparently, the “Change of Plea” is an agreement to "lesser charges" reached between Storey County DA and the defensive attorneys that will be presented to and decided by Judge Griffin who was a colleague of one of the defense attorneys. 

Bobbi Royle, president, Wild Horse Spirit, Ltd., said in response to a plea-bargaining agreement:
"It is a sad day when 'so-called advocates' for a species cannot plead for justice, whatever it may be, without being used as an excuse not to bring out truth."

1-7-2002-Update- Storey County and Judge Griffin fails to allow justice.

The two ex-Marines, Darien Brock and Scott Brendle, who received less-than-honorable discharges, pleaded no contest today before District Justice Griffin in Carson City NV to single gross misdemeanor counts.  The third defendant, Anthony Merlino, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

Sentencing was set for February 11, 2002.  The two ex-Marines could received up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,000. Anthony Merlino, a Reno construction worker who admitted he shot one injured horse "to put it out of its misery", pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of disturbing the peace and could receive up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.  However, the degree of punishment will be decided by Judge Griffin on February 11, 2002.

( Was justice served by Storey County and Judge Griffin  for the slaughtered wild horse?  Without a trial by jury where all evidence could be  presented, NO.  Will the sentencing to be decided by Judge Griffin on February 11, 2002 justify the crimes of these three men.  We think not. They should received the maximum sentences.)  Go to 1-7-2002 newspaper article.

Sentencing of three Defendants associated 1998 Christmas holiday Virginia Range wild horses after three years.

Carson City District Court I Minutes…Judge Michael Griffin
 CASE NO. 00-01285C TITLE: State of Nevada VS Scott William Brendle, Anthony Jon Merlino and Darien Thomas Brock

 2-11-2002 – Department I – Judge Griffin – N. Pieretti, Clerk – J. Forbes – Reporter 


Present:  Sharon E. Claassen, Storey Co. Deputy D.A.; Defendant Brendle with counsel, John Ohlson; Defendant Merlino with counsel, Scott N. Freeman; Defendant Brock with counsel, Marc Picker.

As to each Defendant individually, statements were made by their respective counsel, Claassen and Court.

Evidence marked and admitted in accordance with Exhibit Sheet.

As to Defendant Anthony Merlino:
1-15-99 At time Merlino arraigned in Virginia City
   COURT ORDERED:  Judgment entered.  Assess $25 administrative assessment fee which will be paid with the clerk of this court.  Defendant sentenced to 6 months Storey County Jail.  Sentence suspended; Defendant placed on probation for 1 years.  Fine Defendant $1000 and order $1500 restitution on a schedule.  Order 100 hours of community service.  Defendant released on his probation.

As to Defendant Scott Brendle:
2-1-99 at time Brendle arraigned in Virginia City
   COURT ORDERED:  Judgment entered.  Assess $25 administrative assessment fee which will be paid with the clerk of this court.  Defendant sentenced to 12 months Storey County Jail.  Sentence suspended; Defendant placed on probation for a period up to 2 years with special conditions.  Defendant to effect restitution in the amount of $1500 jointly and severally and agree to a civil judgment of $1500.  Restitution for the extradition costs of $472.  Sentence Defendant to serve an additional 60 days in the Storey County Jail.  Credit for time served and require Defendant to turn himself in on Friday to the Storey County Jail.  150 hours of community service.  Bond exonerated.

As to Defendant Darien Brock:
2-1-99 at time Brock arraigned in Virginia City
   COURT ORDERED:  The same sentence applies to him as well.  Judgment entered.  Assess a $25 administrative assessment fee.  Defendant sentenced to 12 months in Storey County Jail.  Fined $2000. Sentence suspended; Defendant placed on probation for a period of up to 2 years with special conditions.  Restitution in the amount of $1500 jointly and severally and Defendant to sign a civil judgment.  Restitution in the amount of $472 for extradition costs and an additional 60 days in the Storey County Jail.  21 days credit given.  150 hours of community service.  Defendant released on probation.  Bond exonerated.  Defendant to turn himself in on Friday by 10:00AM.

       ALVIN, 4-month-old colt, labeled #4 by the prosecution. (pass mouse over photo)

ex-Marine, Darien Brock, with his foot upon Alvin in a trophy-like pose during the 98 Christmas holiday slaughter. Storey Co Deputy D.A. Claassen presented this photo to Judge Griffin at time of sentencing on 2-11-2002   2-17-2002, 3 years after slaughter. Alvin's remains.
         On 2-11-2002 Storey County Deputy D.A. Claassen, showing Brock's frame of mind, presented the photo on the left to District Court Judge Griffin at time of the sentencing in an attempt to persuade Judge Griffin to give a maximum sentence under the lesser charges plea-bargaining agreement that included only one horse, #12.  The 98 Christmas holiday trophy-like photo is ex-Marine Darien Brock with his foot upon the 4-month old colt, #4 horse, ALVIN, as we named him. This photo was from a roll of film confiscated by the investigators from the defendants' camera.  The defendant's photo show they had not yet sprayed the colt with a fire extinguisher.  Another similar photo included ex-Marine Scott Brendle with his foot upon the colt, too.  The color photo on the right taken on 2-17-2002, three years after the slaughter, is that of Alvin's remains where he died.

12-27-98 Alvin, 4-month old colt sprayed by defendants      12-27-98 Alvin, 4-month old colt sprayed by defendants. Not only were his eyes and nose sprayed, but the defendants also sprayed his rectal and genital areas. Alvin prolapsed his rectum supporting the stress and terror he experienced
      Photos taken late afternoon of 12-27-98 after the tragedy had been reported to the authorities.  By this time, the defendants had sprayed Alvin with a fire extinguisher.  Pass your mouse over the photo to see photo of Alvin's sprayed rectal area...his rectum had prolapsed showing the stress and terror Alvin experienced before he died.  Photo of Alvin's sprayed genital areas not shown.

Voice YOUR OPINION if you feel this horrendous case was plea-bargained and not decided in a Court of Justice before a jury  BY CALLING.  "No evidence" is not good enough:

Storey County District Attorney's Office:  775-847-0964  FAX -775-847-1007
   Janet Hess is the DA and Sharon Claassen is the Deputy DA. 
Carson City District Court-Judge Michael Griffin:  775-887-2082
Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn's FAX is 775-684-5683.
  • Nevada Appeal -Carson City NV -fax (775) 887-2420.
  • Reno Gazette Journal -Reno NV -fax (775) 788-6458.
  • Las Vegas Review -Las Vegas NV -fax (702) 383-4676.
  • Sparks Tribune -Sparks NV -fax (775) 358-3837.
  • Record Courier -Gardnerville NV -fax (775) 782-6132.
  • Comstock Chronicle, Virginia City NV Email:


UPDATE:   The 1999 Nevada Legislature passed SB 396.  As of 10-1-99, it is a Class C Felony to kill a wild horse or estray horse and increased the penalties for other animal cruelty acts.  Unfortunately, SB 396 is NOT retroactive to include the 1998 Christmas holiday slaughter of approximately 34 Virginia Range wild horses.  BIG THANKS to Senator Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, whose year-after-year fight for such a bill, ended in a reality. 
The Virginia Range wild horses are descendants of the very wild horses that spurred Velma B. Johnston, Wild Horse Annie, on her long and gruesome journey that ended in passage of the Federal 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act.  Unfortunately, these horses as well as other western wild horses were not included under the protection of the ACT for political reasons.  Nevada Senator Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) has introduced and re-introduced the Felony bill since 1993, but NV Senator Dean Rhodes (R-Tuscarora) who is a public lands rancher and permittee has never allowed the bill off his desk. NV Senator Lawrence Jacobsen (R-Western District) who has advised people "to get their shot guns out" when wild horses come on their property, was also on this committee. Again, Big Thanks to NV Senator Dina Titus and other legislative members to finally saw the need after the 1998 Christmas slaughter.  UPDATE BELOW.
Additional information:  The intent of two other Nevada Bills, SB 27 and SB 211, that passed during the 1997 Nevada legislature, was to eliminate wild horses from their rightful free-roaming ranges under the guise of "management".  Due to traditional anti-wild horse political power in the Nevada legislature, no provision was included, or ever, in Nevada laws to protect free roaming wild horses from the atrocities inflicted upon approximately 34 Virginia Range wild horses during the December 1998 Christmas holiday massacre. Certainly, if a horse is injured and needs vet attention to survive or a horse that is in jeopardy, removal for their safety and protection is necessary and adoption is an option. Passage of the Felony Bill, SB 396, was one of the most urgent and long overdue legislation to deter and protect Nevada’s free roaming wild horses.  Thank you legislators.
 An unedited 17 minutes video taken by Wild Horse Spirit on afternoon of December 27, 1998, of the first found 6 Virginia Range wild horses shot, (#4, 9, 10, 8, 7, 11) east of Reno/Sparks, NV, and requested by Washoe County Deputy Spratley as he pointed out evidence that afternoon was submitted to Washoe County Sheriff's Department the next morning by Wild Horse Spirit.
ACTION NEEDED to make our counties safe for all:  Washoe, Storey and Lyon County Commissions need to strongly consider and pass ordinances to prohibit "unauthorized discharging" of firearms within our counties, except in designated areas.

Wild Horse Spirit Ltd.
25 Lewers Creek Road
Carson City, NV 89704
(775) 883-5488

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