HANNA, Duchesne County — Everywhere you look in Lee Giles' home and barn, there are mementos of a lifetime spent raising, training, riding and racing horses.
"The average person sees a horse and they see a hundred dollar investment," Giles said. "With me, it's not what the animal costs — it costs as much to feed a burro, say, as it does a champion horse, and we've not been known for having burros."
Giles, 63, had high hopes for Honey, a 5-year-old mare he estimates he spent at least $15,000 on before she was shot in the side Feb. 27.
"You could tell it was a .22 (caliber) slug had gone in there," he said.
Giles and his wife, Kathy, had an idea who might be responsible. Kathy Giles had given their neighbor, Kody Fors, a ride home from school on the night Honey was shot. She said she saw Fors enter the house his family was renting and then exit with a gun.
Fors began shooting a short time later, the couple said.
"It sounded like an automatic, not a semi-automatic," Lee Giles said, adding that he doesn't "condemn" shooting, so long as it's done in a responsible manner.
Honey had to be put down as a result of an injury she suffered.
Duchesne County sheriff's investigators interviewed Fors about the shooting and ultimately arrested him. He was charged March 1 in 8th District Court with wanton destruction of livestock, a second-degree felony. The charge carries a possible prison term of up to 15 years.
Fors, 19, was arrested again 14 days later after two teenagers said they'd seen him with a rifle and heard shots being fired. Prosecutors charged him with possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony, because Fors is prohibited from having a firearm while a felony charge is pending against him.
Fors made his initial appearance on the weapons charge Thursday. A preliminary hearing on the livestock charge was also slated to take place, but was postponed until May 3.
Defense attorney David Allred said there are a number of evidentiary problems with the state's case. No bullet was recovered from Giles' horse, so there is no ballistics match to Fors' gun, Allred said, and "other people frequently shoot in that area."
Allred conceded that Fors did provide conflicting statements to investigators, but said his client has some cognitive disabilities and receives daily assistance from workers with the state Division of Services for People with Disabilities.
"He would never do anything to intentionally hurt a horse," Allred said.
Prosecutors must prove that someone "intentionally or knowingly" shot Giles' horse to obtain a conviction.
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