Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Guilty plea expected in death of family horse

Jack Ireland never met a tougher, more stubborn female than Cutie. He's pretty sure she felt the same way about him.

Jack Ireland never met a tougher, more stubborn female than Cutie. He's pretty sure she felt the same way about him.

When things got heated, the couple would often ignore each other for days. Ireland would stew inside his Franklin Township, Gloucester County, farmhouse and Cutie would do the same, in the barn. Ireland's daughter, Brittany, just a toddler, would try to smooth things out by talking to Cutie for hours. Deep down, though, Jack and Cutie were crazy about each other.

"Me and her, we just fit like a glove," Ireland said recently from his current home in North Carolina.

From the time he bought her as a foal in Shawnee, Okla., to the years he spent breaking her in as a filly for competitive rodeo competitions throughout the country, Ireland formed a bond with his horse that few people could understand.

But three men certainly did not.

Ireland said Cutie was shot in the chest with a broadhead arrow while she stood beneath a street light in a fenced-in yard at the family's former home on Tuckahoe Road on Jan. 21, 2007. The 9-year-old mare bled to death.

Authorities said Jason Allen, 20, Kamren C. Johnston, 26, and Mark A. Simmermon, 22, were "spotting" deer in the area, and two of them fired two shots at the horse from a vehicle. One struck a storage shed and the other hit Cutie.

Ireland said Cutie was hit "dead-on."

Allen, a former standout football player at Lindenwold High School, will plead guilty to animal-cruelty charges today before Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County Superior Court in Woodbury, said his attorney, Jeffrey Zucker.

"It's just the right thing to do for everybody involved," Zucker said. "He has no other record and just wants to get on with his life."

All three suspects face charges that include animal torture and mutilation, criminal trespass and conspiracy. Johnston's and Simmermon's cases are still pending.

Allen made headlines in September 2005 for punching a man to death during a road-rage incident in Lindenwold. Authorities say James Munter, 53, followed Allen home after the teen had cut him off on the road. When Allen parked and crossed the street, Munter hit him with his car. Allen rolled across the hood, landed on his feet and punched Munter twice in the head. Munter later died at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

Allen was initially charged with aggravated assault in the case but that charge was dropped a month after the incident.

Gloucester County Assistant Prosecutor Dana Anton says animal cruelty is a fourth-degree offense in New Jersey, which means Allen could face up to 18 months in jail for Cutie's death.

"This was just a very deliberate and cold-hearted act," she said. "Unfortunately, we're very limited in what we can do to prosecute these types of offenses."

Ireland says Cutie came from a prominent bloodline, and estimates her value at approximately $25,000. He rode Cutie in numerous team-roping events, where two people on horseback attempt to lasso and take down a steer. At one point, she was a source of income for the family.

"She wasn't making me millions but I won a lot of money out of that girl," he said. "She was in her prime, just starting to find herself."

Ireland says he bought a pony for his daughter, now 6, to help fill the void left by Cutie's death. She named it Cutie.

"She still asks why this all happened," Ireland said. "I still don't have an answer." *