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Trial over killing of two horses postponed until February

STILLWATER, Minn. — Four years ago, Gloria Fritz watched as her two American Saddlebred horses were pulled out of a half-dug grave. They had been shot and killed.

A couple of years later, she filed suit against the farm's owner. Trial for the case, previously scheduled to begin Monday, Dec. 11, has been postponed until February.

"I'm hoping some justice will be served because obviously no one deserves to have their animal shot, their loved animal, and that's what it was for me," Fritz said. "I took a loss: emotional, financial, psychological, it was everything."

It started Nov. 10, 2013, when Fritz received a call that both her horses — nicknamed Silver Dollar and Glory Be — had been killed by deer hunters.

Fritz had been keeping her horses at a Scandia farm owned by Ellen and William St. Sauver. She told them she would be transferring the horses to Chicago on Nov. 15 for breeding.

She got the call about the horses' deaths from the St. Sauvers' adult son, William "Willy" St. Sauver Jr., who was responsible for taking care of the boarded horses. It was the second time she had ever spoken to him, and he told her he had buried her horses.

"Something was really fishy. I knew that was a hoax; it was not making sense that deer hunters shot them," the St. Paul woman said. She called the Washington County Sheriff's Office and headed out to the St. Sauvers' land.

Willy St. Sauver took Fritz and an officer behind a shed where he said he had buried the horses, but neither Fritz nor the officer noticed any indication of a burial. The ground was "still hard with weeds growing," according to the lawsuit.

The next day, the officer returned with another officer and noticed St. Sauver driving a large tractor in a tight circle in the middle of a cornfield, about a quarter-mile from where he had said he buried the horses.

That's where the deputies found the partially buried horses under a "large amount of dirt that was recently dug up," according to legal documents. St. Sauver told the officers he was digging up the horses, which he had somewhat mutilated by driving over with the tractor, the lawsuit said.

The next day, a witness told the sheriff's office that he had seen St. Sauver shoot the horses in the head with a gun multiple times at close range. Necropsy examinations on both horses confirmed they had died from gunshots, legal documents said.

"I put the horses there on her farm for safekeeping ... little did I expect to have anybody shoot my horses while they were there," Fritz said. "It was such a surprise and such a letdown. I can handle a lot of stress and a lot of problems but I didn't expect this, and this really took the wind out of me."

The mares, 20 and 17 years old, were the last of Fritz's herd of more than 30 horses.

St. Sauver was charged with two counts of animal torture for each horse, but the charges were dismissed after St. Sauver's death in 2014 at age 31. While intoxicated, he had crashed his car into a tree and died.

William St. Sauver Sr. had died in December 2013, leaving Ellen St. Sauver as the lone defendant of the lawsuit.

Neither Ellen St. Sauver nor her attorney could be reached for comment.

Officers were familiar with the St. Sauvers' address even before the horses' deaths. In the 20 previous years, the address had more than 80 police reports — including a few animal calls.

At 16, Willy St. Sauver pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor theft for stealing a lemur from the Washington County Fair petting zoo, and years later he was charged with harboring an exotic animal for reportedly owning two small alligators.

Fritz filed suit in 2016 for breach of contract, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress. She requested more than $50,000, the amount she said her horses were worth.

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