A Sterling family continues to hold out hope that three horses from their stable will be found, two weeks after they were stolen.
The horse thief had apparently kept the Dean and Kathleen Kitson home under surveillance, because the theft occurred when they were both out of town.
"It really appears they knew we weren't home, and they knew what they wanted," Dean Kitson said.
A scary prospect, he agreed.
Two of the horses, a 9-year-old seal brown mare and a 5-year-old bay gelding, belong to a friend in Washington state. The third is the mare's 18-month-old colt, that was given to the Kitsons' 3-year-old son as a gift.
"He took it pretty rough when he first found out," Kitson said of his son. "The day he realized his horse wasn't out there and his mother told him somebody had stolen it, he was all for dad going out and hanging somebody."
Horse rustling was a hanging offense in the Old West, and Kitson said it's still on the books in many states.
He said all three horses were about 4 feet 5 inches (13 or 14 hands) tall, and the bay had a very distinct dent in its skull above its right eye. They are valued at about $2,400 each.
The Kitsons are associated with the Alaska Equine Rescue Association but said these three horses were not part of any rescue operation.
The rustlers did not touch the Kitsons' three other horses, all geldings.
Neighbors had been taking care of the six horses while Dean was working on the North Slope and Kathleen was in Ketchikan for the holidays. Kitson said the neighbors caught a glimpse of the horse thieves making off in a red extended cab pickup towing an open-sided trailer. They were unable to get the make or model, though they suspect it was a Ford.
The lead investigator in the theft, trooper Robert Hunter, of the Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna, said the case may be a civil issue involving an ownership question.
"The only way it could be a civil issue is if Kitson had entered into an agreement with someone else," Hunter said. "But we are investigating it as a criminal matter."
Kitson said there was no sale or agreement to sell any of the horses, nor was permission to borrow them granted.
Hunter said no suspects have been identified, but several leads have "popped up" in the last few days.
Kitson said when his wife found out on Dec. 30, the day after the thefts, she immediately informed the troopers. They also used e-mail and phone calls to contact their friends and acquaintances in several horse groups in the state, some as far away as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Fairbanks. He said area veterinarians and the state veterinarian have been notified.
"I called the state veterinarian to keep the horses from being transported out of state," Kitson said. "We called everyone we could think of on and off the peninsula."
The couple also placed advertisements, but haven't yet offered a reward.
"But that might be our last resort."
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