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Man jailed for shooting horses

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | April 3, 2024 1:08 AM

A man who shot two horses, killing one, reportedly in retaliation for a neighbor shooting his dog, must spend time in jail and pay more than $7,000 in restitution.

Martin A. Knapp, 76, pleaded guilty in December 2023 to destroying livestock, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

“This case is a sad state of affairs on society that people first go and get a gun,” First District Judge Rich Christensen said before handing down the sentence. “The answer was to call the police and you did not do that.”

In exchange for Knapp’s guilty plea, prosecutors dismissed charges of attempted destruction of livestock and cruelty to animals. Prosecutors also recommended a suspended prison sentence, local jail time and probation.

Christensen sentenced Knapp on Jan. 30 to three years in prison, then suspended the prison sentence and placed Knapp on probation for two years. 

Christensen also ordered Knapp to spend 30 days in jail with two days credit for time served. Knapp is permitted to serve jail time on weekends. He remains under house arrest for the rest of the week and may only go back and forth from jail.

Last June, sheriff’s deputies responded to a report that Knapp had shot two horses on his neighbor’s property. The horses did not belong to the neighbor.

Deputies found one horse, a 9-year-old quarter horse gelding, dead from at least three gunshot wounds to the “front shoulder and neck areas,” according to court records. The other horse, a 23-year-old quarter horse mare, had also sustained gunshot wounds near the rear legs.

A relative of Knapp’s neighbor told police he had fatally shot Knapp’s dog that morning, after the dog allegedly got onto the neighbor’s property, chased the horses and behaved aggressively.

About two hours later, another relative of the neighbor said he heard multiple gunshots. He told police he found the gelding down and tangled in a fence and saw Knapp walking away with a gun in his hand. The horse reportedly kicked a few times and then died from the injuries.

Police arrested Knapp at his home the same day.

Knapp’s neighbors indicated there had been prior incidents where the dog was aggressive, though Knapp denied this. He told the court his neighbors never spoke to him about his dog’s behavior before the shooting.

“His dog was shot by a neighbor who he believes did that out of spite and took the opportunity to do it,” said Michael Palmer, defense counsel for Knapp. “We’ll never know if the dog was bothering the livestock.”

When requesting that Knapp be placed on probation, Palmer said his client is in poor health and “not long for this world.”

Christensen said he was troubled by Knapp’s “impulsive” actions and how he took out his anger toward his neighbor on the horses.

“You are 76 with no extensive criminal record but performed a horrible criminal act,” Christensen said.

Knapp must pay $7,736 in restitution to the owners of the horses.