WILLIAMSBURG — Two felony charges against a 59-year-old James City man who stole a horse from a barn off Forge Road last fall were reduced to misdemeanors Thursday in General District Court. He will serve no jail time.
Eddie R. Barker was charged with grand larceny, breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny and misdemeanor animal cruelty in November over the theft of a 9-year-old Hanoverian Thoroughbred Cross horse.
The horse was taken from its stall in Toano on Oct. 24, according to police. Prosecutors amended the grand larceny charge to misdemeanor petit larceny and the breaking and entering charge to misdemeanor trespassing in court. The animal cruelty charge was dropped.
Defense attorney George Brooks told the court that Barker, who served in the military for nearly two decades, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and had been diagnosed with cancer for a second time shortly before the incident occurred. He noted that Barker and his family suspected his medications had something to do with the incident.
Barker said he went to the veteran's hospital in Richmond immediately after being released from jail and got his medication changed. He said now that he's taking other medications he can see why the incident occurred.
"I've embarrassed myself," he said. "I've lost friends through this. It's been a total torment since October."
Marianne Bobskill, the horse's owner, contacted local media the day her horse went missing and put the word out on social media.
She told the Gazette her horse went missing from Willow Pond Farm before daybreak Oct. 24 and was found the following morning on the farm's driveway. Police believe the horse was kept in the woods along Forge Road overnight.
Joshua DeFord, assistant commonwealth's attorney, said Barker took the horse a short distance away from the barn, and tied it up, noting that a bucket of water and another of oats were left for the animal. He said Barker also covered the horse's white markings to disguise it.
"He did acknowledge he took the horse, that he wanted to ride a horse one last time," DeFord said.
Brooks said Barker began to see light in the sky that morning and realized if anyone saw him with the horse there would be a problem, which prompted him to change the markings. He explained that Barker grew up on a farm and the markings on prize pigs would be covered and it didn't hurt them.
Judge Colleen Killilea found Barker guilty on the amended charges, sentencing him to six months in jail on each charge with all time suspended. She also barred Barker from Willow Pond Farm and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $1,020, which Barker said he was prepared to pay in cash.
Robertson can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.