Man who shot ex-girlfriend's horse in its snout gets probation, 90 days in jail

PAXTON — A Livingston County man has been sentenced to 90 days in the Ford County Jail after pleading guilty to felony charges alleging he threatened his ex-girlfriend with a gun before turning the weapon on her horse and shooting it in the snout.

Matthew T. Harrell, 25, of rural Forrest, pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Nov. 7, in Ford County Circuit Court to one count each of aggravated animal cruelty, a Class 4 felony, and aggravated assault, a Class A misdemeanor.

In return for his plea, State’s Attorney Andrew Killian agreed to dismiss misdemeanor charges of criminal damage to property.

Judge Matt Fitton sentenced Harrell to 90 days in jail, to be served periodically starting Jan. 2, 2018. Harrell received credit for two days previously served.

Harrell also was sentenced to 30 months of probation. Harrell was also ordered to undergo psychiatric/domestic violence/anger management counseling, to pay fines totaling about $4,000, and to pay $855 in restiution to the victim — his ex-girlfriend, Caitlyn Diefenbach — and have no hostile contact with her.

Within 60 days, Harrell must also surrender his firearms and Firearm Owner’s Identification card to the Ford County Sheriff’s Office.

Harrell was granted work release as he serves his jail term. Harrell will be allowed to leave jail to travel to and from work; he will be released each day 90 minutes prior to his scheduled work time and must return within 90 minutes of the end of his work day.

According to a criminal complaint filed in court, Diefenbach told police that Harrell pointed a .40-caliber handgun at her during an April 19 argument at a property in rural Piper City and that she believed Harrell shot her horse.

Harrell’s brother, Mitchell Harrell, said he witnessed both things happen. Matthew Harrell admitted doing so, as well.

The horse, which suffered a gunshot wound to its snout, was treated by a local veterinarian and was expected to make a full recovery.

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