New York Horse Assassin Sentenced to Prison in Hoosick Falls Justice Twist

by Fran Jurga | 4 February 2010 | The Jurga Report at

News film embedded from WNYT, Channel 13, in Albany, New York.

When you cross into New York state from Bennington, Vermont, the fields look bigger, the tractors look bigger. You are rhythmically driving from village to village, with lots of horses in between. Maybe Norman Rockwell lived back there in Arlington, Vermont but it looks like he could have painted in Renssalaer County, New York.

Hoosick Falls, New York is halfway between Bennington and Saratoga Springs, New York. Its center is in the National Register of Historic Places. The French drove the English settlers out of town in the 1750s but they came back. A blacksmith named Walter Wood put the town on the map with his plow manufactory in the 1800s, until another local blacksmith, John Deere, began to dominate the trade.

Hoosick Falls was also the home of the famous American primitive painter Grandma Moses. But Wood and Moses are no longer the most famous residents of the town. It’s now known as the home of a horse killer.

Today, equine assassin Michael Lohnes received a prison sentence. He is known far and wide for the deliberate and calculated murder of a horse he knew nothing about and had to reason to harm.

Her name was Skye, but he never even knew that. He pleaded guilty to her murder, but that’s not why he was standing before a judge today, really.

This story has been in the news for two years and it will never really go away but Mr. Lohnes will. It may be as long as seven years before he sets foot in Hoosick Falls again, if he ever dares go back to his home town.

But what won’t go away with him is the pain of the dead horse’s owner, and the discomfort and disbelief of local people–and animal lovers everywhere–over such a violent, unprevoked crime against an innocent animal.

A few miles to the west of Skye’s Hill Road barn, some of the most valuable horses in the world race each August, or are sold at the Saratoga yearling sales. A few miles to the east you’ll find the Vermont Summer Festival hunter/jumper series, the largest AA-rated USEF series in New England. But in this town, a horse wasn’t even safe in its own barn.

All are as vulnerable as Skye was, because the state of New York, like most states, has light charges for crimes against horses.

But there’s a small bright light, to the south of Hoosick Falls. It’s on in the state capitol at Albany. New York State Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco is working to adapt the state’s “Buster’s Law” against animal cruelty to include horses. According to Tedisco, because horses in New York are classified as livestock instead of companion animals, violent and deliberate slaughtering of them is considering a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

The bulk of Lohnes’s sentence is to be served because he committed burglary while in the barn, not because he murdered the horse, stabbing her over and over again and leaving her to die.

There’s irony, there’s justice, and there’s ironic justice, since some of New York’s prisons use caring for retired Thoroughbreds as a rehabilitation program for inmates.

Something tells me Lohnes will be sitting that one out. The people back home in Hoosick Falls would definitely not approve.

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