The investigation of Francisco Romo's horses began Saturday. It's just the latest in a rash of incidents involving starving horses.
These were happier times. It was 11 years ago that Francisco and Trudy Romo won $40 million in the California state lottery. Their winning ticket had been thrown away.
Trudy Romo, January 17, 2001: "We were looking through the trash trying to find this ticket, and sure enough the numbers matched up."
11 years later, neighbors say it looks like they just might have thrown some of that money away. Francisco Romo bought up 20 acres of land, then bought at least a dozen horses to run on it. Becky Dyer-Contreras lives across the street from Romo's property there, just off of Griffith, near the Friant-Kern Canal.
Becky Dyer-Contreras, Neighbor: "I was shocked when I seen them. I could see their ribs and their bones."
Becky took it upon herself to care for one horse that was corralled at the front of Romo's property. She says someone would drive up in a truck once in a while to take care of the horses, but it wasn't enough. Becky says she noticed the emaciated horses after they kicked a fence down to get to some grass. She says Romo really had no business owning horses in the first place.
Becky: "Francisco ran around on foot with a rope, trying to rope a horse, which was an endless battle. He could never capture the horse. So it didn't seem like he had a lot of experience with horses."
When the Romos won the lottery, they chose to receive the payments in annual installments.
Beth Caffrey, SPCA Spokesperson: "It doesn't make sense that somebody would be able to afford to feed animals and just not do it."
Regardless of whether Romo could afford to take care of the horses, Sheriff's deputies say it's a case of neglect. Romo was arrested on charges of animal cruelty.
Neighbors say there are skeletal remains of another horse on the back side of his property. The rest were then taken back to the SPCA's brand new horse corral.
With the recent rash of starving horse incidents, there are now 37 horses at the facility.
Caffrey: "If you can't care for your horses, if you're getting to the point where you have monetary issues, please find homes for them while they're healthy."
There are several other cases of horse neglect going on in the central valley. The SPCA is currently monitoring a situation in Riverdale. SPCA officials say because of all these cases of starving horses, their brand new horse corral is already filling up.
Truckloads of hay have already been donated to help with the starving horses, but they've already gone through it.
If you'd like to make a donation for these horses, you can contact the SPCA. The address is 103 South Hughes. Or you can call 233-0116.