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This page last updated:  Monday, November 15, 2010

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(aka Layla)

T O N K A ' S 

T A S K    F O R C E

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(aka Red)

On May 15, 2009, Tonka and his mom, Dingolay (Layla), and Sienna Rachel (aka Red) arrived at Beauty's Haven.  Beauty's Haven paid $1,000 for Dingolay and Tonka, and $175 for Red.  Just a couple of weeks before this, Animal Services had been to the very location where these horses were and witnessed their condition; that day, they euthanized a mare, Brook's Approval, after giving birth to a baby that did not make it.  If you were to see the picture of Brook's Approval before she was euthanized, just after giving birth to her stillborn baby, you would probably not be able to get the image out of your mind -- I haven't been able to. 

Three days after arriving at BHFER, despite all medical care, Tonka's body succumbed to starvation.  Starvation is a slow and painful way to die.  Dingolay wasn't far behind him in her condition.  She was touch and go, and she had watched her baby die over several weeks.  What happened to them is inexcusable and definitely not acceptable. 

Tonka, Dingolay, Brook's Approval, and her stillborn baby were owned, at the time, by Mr. Todd Williams and had been in the care and control of Krystal and Joann Knirsch for approximately one month before we learned of them.   Mr. Williams had purchased Brook's Approval and Dingolay in January 2009 at the Ocala Breeders Sale, both due to foal.  Red did not belong to Todd Williams; she was owned by the Knirschs.  Based on information found in public records, Dingolay, Tonka, and Brook's Approval were in the care and control of another individual by the name of Rachel Yonish for months before being moved to the Knirschs in April.

Who is to blame in this case?  Are they all to blame?  Should they all be implicated for their involvement in this travesty?  The horses didn't wind up in this severe degree of starvation overnight or even in a period of one month.  How many people were aware of how bad the condition of the horses was and did nothing?  We want to get to the bottom of this neglect and abuse.  It is our hope that everyone allegedly involved in this case will soon be implicated and charges will be pressed -- justice needs to be served.

Thank you for taking time to read about Tonka's Task Force.  We have created a special guestbook so you can ask questions, vent, offer help, or just express your opinion.  We look forward to hearing from you.

All individuals identified on this website are mentioned because of their alleged direct involvement with this case as has been advised by the proper authorities.  In no way are we trying this case on this website; this is for your own information.  Please DO NOT post inflammatory statements in other forums.  If this happens, Beauty's Haven Farm and Equine Rescue, Inc., will not be held responsible for any other individual's statements.

As we approach the next several critical weeks in this deplorable case, here is a summary of events that we have compiled -- based on records from the various cases involving the individuals listed-- and a list of actions that we intend to take to bring justice in this case.

bulletFIVE* horses have died since March in this case -- three were babies. 
bulletWhat do these horses have in common?
bulletThey were owned by, or under the care of, Rachel Yonush.
bulletSome belonged to Todd Williams.
bulletThey died from lack of proper care and starvation.
bulletMarion County Animal Services was aware of them, at least, since March 4, 2009.

One baby died at a property that was leased by Rachel Yonush.  Three died on the property of Krystal Knirsch, who is being charged for animal neglect in the case of a horse that she owned that she called "Red" (aka Sienna Rachel).  The fifth, Tonka, died at the hospital.

bulletThere are no outstanding charges against anyone -- nobody is being held accountable for the deaths of these five horses.
bulletThese horses were in Marion County, which encompasses Ocala, "Horse Capital of the World."

Please read the details that follow.  These are the facts of the case as we have been able to compile them.

bulletDecember 2007:  Todd Williams arrested for dog fighting charges in Columbia County, FL.
bulletFebruary 2008:  Todd Williams enters a Not Guilty plea.
bulletJanuary 2009:  Todd Williams purchased two Registered Thoroughbred mares that were in foal at the Ocala Breeders Sale.  One was from Winding Oaks Farm (Dingolay) and the other from Adena Springs (Brooks Approval).  The mares were placed in the care of Rachel Yonush.
bulletMarch 4, 2009:  Marion County Animal Services (MCAS) was called about a mare with a foal -- both were reportedly falling over.  It was reported that you could see every rib in the colt and that he was stumbling, dizzy looking.  These horses were under the care of Rachel Yonush.
bulletMarch 6, 2009:  two calls this day.
First call in the AM:  MCAS was called to the same location as the March 4 complaint by the owner of the property that was being leased to Rachel Yonush.  He stated, "They always have several animals in poor condition." 
Second call at 12:19 PM:  The property owner called MCAS again -- very concerned about a colt that could not stand.  He was lying in the direct sun and could not get up.  The foal did not survive (this is dead horse number one, at least that we are aware of).
bulletMarch 30, 2009:  MCAS was called out again to where Rachel Yonush was keeping these horses, along with others, due to unhealthy conditions.
bulletApril 27, 2009:   Plea agreement signed in court by Todd Williams on dog fighting charges sentencing set for June 1.2009.
bulletApril 7, 2009:  Another complaint was made to MCAS regarding the horses in Rachel Yonush's care being very thin and starving.  The reports states there were foals on the property. 
bulletApril 16, 2009:  Rachel Yonush is evicted from the property she was leasing, and the horses are moved to a location owned by Krystal and/or Joann Knirsch
bulletApril 28, 2009:  MCAS was called by Krystal Knirsch to her property because a mare was foaling and the people onsite didn't know what to do.  Animal Compliance Officer (ACO) Stephens responded.  Her report states the mare was down, had delivered a stillborn foal, and that the mare's leg was tied or caught in the fence.  A veterinarian was called out.  We later learned that the mare was Brooks Approval.  The vet checked the foal and the placenta for intactment and euthanized the mare due to her condition (these are the second and third horses that died).
Rachel Yonush
showed up and advised ACO Stephens that she would be moving her horses to another location.  Todd Williams was also there on this day and saw the condition of Dingolay and Tonka.  ACO Stephens stated she would be back to check on the horses in two to three weeks.  AC Stephens saw the condition of Dingolay and Tonka and others on the property, including another foal, but did not seize the horses.  Click here to see a picture of Brook and her baby, but be warned:  it is graphic.  We didn't want to show the picture but feel it is necessary in order to show how obvious it was that these horses were not getting proper care and had not, for some time.  The picture was taken of Brook just before she was euthanized, just after giving birth to her baby.  Look at her -- she did not get that way in only a few weeks!  According to two sources, ACO Stephens had been involved in the March complaints to MCAS and had seen the horses at that time.  Had Tonka and Dingolay been seized on this day and provided proper care, it is very possible that Tonka would have survived. 
bulletMay 15, 2009 (AM):  Theresa called MCAS and left a message about two mares and a foal at Krystal Knirsch's property being in a very unhealthy condition and that the baby appeared to be dying. 
bulletMay 15, 2009:  BHFER purchases Red from Krystal Knirsch and, after observing a colt that appeared to be dying, demanded that a vet be called out immediately and stated that BHFER would pay for the vet.  Krystal states that she already had to bury one of Rae's horses (this makes number four).  We later learned that Rae was Rachel Yonush.  Krystal Knirsch speaks with the owner, Todd Williams, and advises he will have a vet out to examine them.  Later in the day, the vet that responded to Mr. Williams' request meets Mr. Williams at the Knirsch property.  Mr. Williams advises the vet to euthanize the mare and baby.  The vet suggests surrendering them to Beauty's Haven.  At the request of Mr. Williams, the vet calls Theresa and asks if Beauty's Haven would take the mare and baby and rehab them and give them back to Mr. Williams when they are healthy.  Theresa would not agree but did offer to take them and, if Mr. Williams wouldn't surrender them, BHFER would offer $1,000 for them in an effort to get them to safehaven as soon as possible.  A few minutes later, the vet called Theresa back and said Mr. Williams would take $1,000 in exchange for the mare and baby.  In less then 30 minutes, Mr. Williams was paid $1,000, in cash, and he signed the mare and baby over to BHFER.  They were transported to BHFER right away.
bulletMay 18, 2009 (AM):  ACO Stephens returned Theresa's call from three days earlier.  Theresa asked her to come to the rescue to see the condition of the mares and the baby.  Shortly after, Tonka was admitted to the hospital.
bulletMay 18, 2009 (evening):  ACO Stephens calls for directions to the rescue and is advised, by Theresa, that the baby is in critical condition at the hospital.  ACO Stephens goes to the rescue and takes pictures of Red and Dingolay.  She states to Bob Batchelor that Red and Dingolay were in much worse condition at that time than when she observed them on April 28, 2009, at the Knirschs.  ACO Stephens goes to the hospital and takes pictures of Dingolay's baby, Tonka.  She states to Theresa that it was evident that the horses clearly were not being fed since she observed them at Krystal Knirsch's on April 28, 2009.  She stated she was going to pursue charges against three individuals.
bulletMay 18, 2009 (PM):  Despite all medical care, Tonka died from the effects of starvation at Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital of Ocala while his mom barely clung to life at the rescue.  Tonka was about four months old and 200 - 300 lbs. underweight when he died.  His skin, the largest organ of the body, was covered in rain rot; and we couldn't brush him, it hurt him too much.  Click here (WARNING:   GRAPHIC!) to see what his body looked like -- it was riddled with sores.
How does anyone sleep at night knowing their animals are starving?  This baby suffered, and he wasn't alone.  Tonka's death was number FIVE.  FIVE dead horses since March -- three that were just babies!  How many more will have to die before something is done?  Have others died that we don't know about?  Are there more horses in possession of Rachel Yonush, Todd Williams, or Krystal Knirsch that are in danger?  There was at least one more baby and this baby's mom was also thin.  This picture was taken on May 18th, the day Tonka died.  I wonder how this baby is doing now?

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bulletJune 1, 2009:  Todd Williams appears in court in Columbia County for dog fighting charges.  A plea agreement that had been previously worked out was tabled by the judge, and a new court date was scheduled for August 10, 2009.  The judge ordered a Pre-trial Investigation.
bulletJune 2, 2009:  Bench Warrant was issued for Krystal Knirsch in the case of Red.
bulletJune 2, 2009:  Krystal Knirsch was arrested and charged with one misdemeanor count of Animal Abuse/Abandonment.  The next court date is scheduled for July 29, 2009.
bulletJune 17, 2009:  Krystal Knirsch's arraignment was held at Marion County Courthouse in the case of Red -- she pled Not Guilty.
bulletJune 18, 2009:  On the news last night.  Krystal is one of the persons responsible for what happened to the horses.  More to follow. http://www.wcjb.com/news/4129/trial-begins-for-horse-abuse-case
bulletJune 24, 2009:  BHFER met with Jonathon Blevins, Assistant State Attorney in Marion County.  He is handling the case against Krystal Knirsch concerning Red aka Sienna Rachel.
bulletJune 24, 2009:  A meeting was held with MCAS.  Jill Lancon (Director), Christy Jergens, and three others explained to Theresa and Bernel that, when the package was submitted by MCAS to the judge for Arrest Warrants, the judge felt there was not enough evidence to issue arrest warrants for Dingolay, Tonka, and the others.  Not enough evidence?  The only warrant for arrest that was issued was for Krystal Knirsch in the case of Red.  We were dumbfounded how, if evidence was presented, nothing was to be done in the case of Tonka and Dingolay -- something had to have been overlooked or just not presented.  MCAS advised BHFER to file the case, and ACO Stephens provided us with an Affidavit of Complaint (several multiple page forms) to fill out.  We have to wonder exactly what, if anything, was submitted to the state attorney's office to bring about justice for Tonka and Dingolay.  How could anyone look at these three horses, with Tonka and Dingolay being the worst, and not do something about it?
bulletJune 30, 2009:  Krystal Knirsch entered a written plea of Not Guilty in the case of Red.  A pre-trial conference is scheduled for July 29.
bulletJuly 10, 2009:  As suggested by MCAS on June 24, Bernel prepared a package to submit to the court to request that Arrest Warrants be issued in Tonka and Dingolay's case and proceeded to the Marion County Courthouse.  When she tried to go through the process that had been explained to her by ACO Stephens, it was learned that she could not do so because she is not an officer of the court.  
bulletJuly 16, 2009:  A meeting was scheduled among Theresa, Bernel, and the Director of Human Resources of Marion County to be held on Friday, July 24.  We hoped to address all issues, present facts, exchange information, and get the answers necessary to have this case filed properly by MCAS, with our assistance.
bulletJuly 17, 2009:  More upsetting information was learned:  Todd Williams was aware that the health of his mares was declining back in March, and since.  He had been on the property where they were being cared for by Rachel Yonush.  He wasn't ignorant of the fact that his horses were not properly being fed and cared for.
bulletJuly 23, 2009:  To view the latest news about Dingolay and Tonka's case, please visit this link:
http://www.wcjb.com/news/4473/equine-rescue-wants-justice-for-starved-horsesPlease leave comments.
bulletJuly 23, 2009:  Shortly after 4:00 PM today, Bernel received a call from the office of Drew Adams, the Director of Human Resources of Marion County, advising that the meeting for tomorrow has been cancelled -- not rescheduled, but cancelled.
bulletJuly 24, 2009:  A meeting is scheduled between BHFER and the Director of Human Resources, Marion County.  Our goal is to walk out of the meeting knowing that MCAS is going to gather and present all of the facts about this case to the court, which has been open since March, and that Arrest Warrants will be issued for all responsible parties.  This has gone on too long -- justice needs to be served.  This case sets an example for how MCAS looks upon horses in the "Horse Capital of the World."
bulletJuly 29, 2009:  Krystal Knirsch's pre-trail conference was held today.  She had initially pled "not guilty," but a "change of plea" is now scheduled for August 4.
bulletAugust 10, 2009:  Todd Williams is due in court for sentencing in the dog fighting case in Columbia County.
bulletSeptember 14th, 2009:  The case against Krystal Knirsch was heard in court today.  She was found guilty and sentenced to one year's probation, 50 hours community service with Salvation Army, 30 days on the Sheriff's Work Gang, $2,500.00 fine, and approximately $500.00 in court costs; and she cannot own or shelter animals for one year, with the exception of "Choppy," her mother's cat.  We are very thankful that justice was served in Red's (Sienna's) case -- thank you, Marion County!  Now, that precedence has been set, the court itself has determined that Red was abused; we expect more charges for the other horses.  Red was in bad shape but Dingolay (Layla) was even worse, and Tonka died.  Brook and her baby died.  It's more than apparent that there is a case for the others that suffered.  What do you think?

*  It is unclear whether the horse that Krystal Knirsch said she had to bury on her property was Brook's Approval.  Brook and her baby both died on the property.  If the horse Krystal Knirsch was talking about is Brook, then there are four dead vs. five.


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