As one element of a Powell Butte horse neglect case came to a close in a Crook County Tuesday, there was word that a state court ruling will clear the way for prosecution in a similar 3-year-old case at the same ranch.
You might remember a man named Robert Gruntz, who in 2009 was charged with 11 counts of animal neglect involving horses on a Powell Butte ranch. He quickly appealed the search warrant, saying deputies didn't offer probable cause for a search.
Eventually, a judge agreed with him, sending the matter to the Oregon Court of Appeals, which overturned the judge's decision. After it got all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court, just last week they refused to hear his appeal, said Crook County District Attorney Daina Vitolins.
Gruntz lives in California, but the neglected animals were kept at a ranch in Powell Butte.
That's the same ranch Timothy Coffia was just sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in jail for neglecting horses and cows on.
Vitolins told me Gruntz did not and does not own the property, nor the horses found there.
"He has testified several times that he was an unpaid financial advisor for Arlington Group," which is at the center of the neglect case, Vitolins said.
Back in 2009, we reported Gruntz was accused of using the horses to run an elaborate investment scam.
Sources told us people in California would give Gruntz money, believing they were investing in racing and breeding thoroughbreds. But what he's accused of doing was shipping the horses up to Oregon, pocketing the money for himself and never giving hired ranch hands enough money to care and feed them.
Coffia became the fifth ranch hand in three years to get jail time for neglecting the horses, and now he just became a likely star witness for the prosecution. Taking the plea deal means he has agreed to testify against anyone else charged in these neglect cases, including Gruntz.
"Hes already given us some really useful information about exactly what the process was and what happened, in terms of the care for the horses," said Vitolins.
Coffia was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with credit for time served, But he has already served 60 days in jail, so he was released. Coffia also will be on probation for the next three years.
Meanwhile, Vitolins confirmed the rest of the horses in the county's care since a recent auction have been adopted out to a new equine rescue group we recently visited.