After a months-long investigation, police have arrested a man accused of sexually abusing ponies at Carousel Park.
Michael Riego, 31, of Hartly, was arrested Thursday morning and charged with two counts of felony bestiality and two counts of third-degree burglary.
Detectives are still investigating, and additional charges are expected, New Castle County Police Department spokesman Master Cpl. Michel Eckerd said.
Authorities first became aware of the abuse in February, when Carousel Park staff reported that on multiple occasions, they had arrived in the morning to find ponies with cords tied around their legs. Police later determined that the abuse dates back as far as September 2019.
The ponies involved are owned by New Castle County and used for riding lessons, Eckerd said.
In one instance, a 17-year-old black-and-white mare suffered an injury to her hind legs and had difficulty walking. In another, a 20-year-old mare was found with cord around her leg and was in “severe pain,” Eckerd said.
On April 20, another horse was targeted, and this time, the incident was captured on video surveillance, showing that the abuse was not just physical, but sexual, Eckerd said.
The video showed a man – later identified as Reigo – retrieving a feed bucket and entering the horse’s stall.
“The suspect was observed tying up the rear legs of the mare, removing articles of clothing, and ultimately sexually assaulting the horse,” Eckerd said.
Police then enhanced the electronic surveillance at the barn and began to do nightly stakeouts of the facility.
“After over a month, their determination to bring a stop to these crimes finally paid off,” Eckerd said.
Around 12:30 a.m. Thursday, detectives were watching as Riego entered a stall and tied up a pony’s legs, said Eckerd.
Detectives arrested Riego, who was still awaiting arraignment Thursday night.
Eckerd said police believe Riego may have abused other animals in the past and said that any farmers who have employed him should contact Det. Brian Lucas at 302-395-8110 or Brian.Lucas@newcastlede.gov.
All the ponies involved have been treated by a veterinarian and have resumed their normal activities.