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TEXARKANA, Ark. — Miller County prosecutors have formally charged a woman with aggravated animal cruelty and hindering apprehension in connection with an investigation into maltreatment of a horse.

Raven Simone Stephens, 28, was allegedly living in May with a man on property in the 800 block of Johnson Lane, where horses and other animals were kept. Animal control personnel received complaints that Stephens' boyfriend, who is not being named because he has not been arrested or charged, was intentionally withholding food and water from a horse.

"We anticipated the removal of three horses and two dogs as well as some additional evidence said to be used in the incident that had occurred on May 6, 2019," a probable cause affidavit states.

When animal control officers and members of the Texarkana, Ark., Police Department visited the property May 8, they found a brown-and-white horse "said to be two years of age" but later determined to be twice as old and likely suffering from stunted growth caused by malnutrition. The horse was tied to a tree with a rope about one-and-a-half to two-feet long, which prevented it from putting its head down in a fenced-in area, which was less than an acre.

While there was water nearby, the horse could not reach it. Witnesses allegedly told authorities that Stephens' boyfriend withholds food and water from horses to "punish" them when he feels they have misbehaved and that Stephens' boyfriend removed horses and guns before officers arrived to seize them.

Officers determined nobody was home when they arrived. After knocking for some time, the officers entered the house. Inside they found a caged pit bull with adequate food and water, and noticed a room filled with a large amount of horse tack. Officers did not find a whip or other items witnesses had described seeing Stephens' boyfriend with in the past.

While the officers were there, Stephens allegedly pulled up in her "U.S. Mail truck." Stephens told the officers that her boyfriend had moved out and taken animals and belongings with him. The officers did not believe Stephens as they had been inside the house and seen the horse tack they knew from previous encounters as belonging to Stephens' boyfriend.

Stephens allegedly gave conflicting accounts concerning the horse found tied to the tree and denied knowing where they could find her boyfriend. After Stephens and most of the officers left the scene, one officer remained behind with a witness. At that time, Stephens' boyfriend allegedly called the witness and asked questions about what the officers had done.

During the conversation, a voice believed to be Stephens' could be heard on the phone. This led officers to conclude that Stephens was aware of her boyfriend's location, lied to officers and was complicit in the alleged abuse of the horse discovered tied to a tree.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell signed off in August on formal charges against Stephens. She was arrested May 16 and released from custody May 20 on a $10,000 bond.

Both offenses Stephens faces are punishable by up to 6 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carlton Jones. Stephens is expected to appear in court this month.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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