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Update–Briney Found Not Guilty of Aggravated Animal Cruelty in Admitted Beating Death of Shetland Pony

December 10th, 2009 by

A Drew County jury found Benjamin Briney not guilty of aggravated animal cruelty, following the admitted beating to death of a horse on August 1, with a baseball bat.

This is Arkansas’ first attempt at prosecuting someone under the new “felony aggravated animal cruelty” law that went into effect as of midnight on July 31.  The death of this horse occurred approximately one hour later.

The background for Wednesday’s trial began around mid-July, when it’s owner loaned a Shetland pony to a family on Countryview Road, just south of Monticello, to be ridden at a child’s birthday party.

On approximately July 22, “Cupid” was reportedly attacked by another animal, causing severe injuries to the horse’s head and ears.

The first witness called was Peggy Trantham, the horse’s owner.  She told the court that after the horse was attacked on July 22, a veterinarian checked the horse, and left an anti-biotic (which was to be given to it daily).

Briney was at the scene and lived nearby, so she soon asked Briney to “handle it”, explaining that she meant for him to provide nursing type care and feed the horse for her.

On July 31, the horse was again attacked by an animal, causing further damage.  Trantham, after further questioning, admitted that she did not call the veterinarian this time.  (It was explained that her son was having severe medical issues at the time.)

Testimony from Trantham, Briney, and another witness gave much different versions of who called whom, as well as when calls where made, and how many calls were attempted. (The jury was told that this witness had a prior felony conviction, just for the record.)

Shortly after midnight on July 31, which would now make it August 1, the date of implementation of Arkansas’ new “felony aggravated animal cruelty law”, Briney took the horse, which he described by him, as not able to stand by itself, into the woods.

Briney reportedly came out of the woods around 45 minutes later and told a friend of his (the other witness) that he had been “told to put the horse down”, “I did it”, “I killed the horse”, and “I used a baseball bat.”

The witness followed Briney back into the woods, where he told the court he saw the horse still alive.  He added that Briney then began jumping up and down on the pony’s rib area, and then walked around to the front of the horse and said, “I’m sorry, Buddy,” and proceeded to hit the wounded animal in the mouth and nose area with the bat.

The witness estimated to the courtroom that he saw Briney hit the dying pony around 40 times, as Briney “hog-tied” the horse to the tree, when the pony was trying to get up.

Briney’s statement to Sheriff’s Dept. Detective Rick Rausch said that there was only one blow with the baseball bat.  Briney admitted to the jury that there were three times he hit the horse with the bat.  The witness estimated 40 blows were made to the animal. 

Six photos were presented to the jury showing at least six separate injuries to the horse’s skull and jawbone, as well as the pony lying on the ground around the time of it’s death.


Peggy Trantham was recalled to the stand, and was questioned about her leaving the animal at the scene where the original attack occurred, the reason for calls made and not made to the veterinarian, and whether she tried to locate the horse’s remains after she was informed about it’s death.

She reportedly used phraes like “handle it” and “take care of it” to Briney, about the horse.  Briney told the jury her words were “take care of it, go ahead and kill it, because she didn’t want to see it.”  He then added, “it was suffering because they had pressured me into killing the horse.”


Under the new law there were two questions facing the jury: “Did he kill the horse?” and  “was it torture?”

It was admitted throughout the trial that Briney killed the horse, but the legal definition of torture, as presented in court, included the word “knowingly”.

Deputy prosecuting attorney Zach Vaughn told the jurors, “It doesn’t matter if he hit the horse 1 time, 3 times, or 40 times, it’s still torture.”

Defense attorney Chris Hayes told them, “he believed the horse was suffering, and he acted in the only way he knew how to put the horse out of it’s misery.”


After 35 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict of “not guilty”.

An annonymus member of the jury panel explained that there were three votes taken, with totals of 8-4, 11-1, then unamimous.

The jury’s decision kept coming back to the word “knowingly”.  Based on how they felt Briney understood the situation. 

Trantham’s testimony seemed to leave other questions unanswered.

Also considered was that Briney had taken care of the horse for a length of time, before it’s death, including feeding and medical care, which, to some extent, reflected positively upon him, in the eyes of the jury.

65 Responses to “Update–Briney Found Not Guilty of Aggravated Animal Cruelty in Admitted Beating Death of Shetland Pony”

  1. Lilly says:

    It figures. I guess as long as you don’t believe your doing something wrong, it’s not.

  2. Debra says:

    Thats Crazy!!!

  3. James Boney says:

    The next time Briney thinks he might be on state television, he might consider zipping his fly.

  4. TAMMY says:


  5. Debbie says:

    I cannot understand how the jury reached a verdict of “not guilty” accoding to the facts presented in this article and in previous coverage of this story. I wasn’t at the trial, but I find the verdict incredible.

  6. Christy says:

    How are you found not guilty when you admit to doing it?

  7. Debra says:

    Well his brother did say on channel 11 news last night on tv ” He ain’t all there”

  8. sick of it!!! says:

    how can you really find him guilty when a man died and the person accused only got probation

  9. justlovinlife says:

    Being a low functioning adult is no reason not to be convicted of this horrible crime. I believe that he should have been prosecuted to the fullest. I can’t believe, with the evidence given, that he was found not guilty. Will it be a human life next?

  10. jessie says:

    That is so wrong!! I agree with Christy! Well if the brother isn’t all there then something more should be done! What people do in this world surprises me everyday!

  11. Lauren says:

    That’s ridiculous- he shouldn’t be out around our town if he isn’t “all there” anyway.

  12. Anna says:

    I can not believe that a civilized society can find him not gulity. The abuse and torture this poor animal suffered was immense. My heart goes out to the animal and I can only say at least it doesn’t have to suffer anymore. I have no sympanthy for this man or the owner. They will get theirs when they meet their maker.

  13. WJ says:

    Mrs Trantham should have to pay. I understand the verdict because I beleive she took advantage of a slow 20 year old boy. Mrs Trantham could have move Cupid after the first attack. This boy was the sole caregiver for Cupid for a period of time. Yes I agree the method Briney use was wrong but what is his IQ level? I beleave I read below 80.

  14. Ken says:

    Briney deserves the same care and consideration that the pony received.

  15. Dolly says:

    Well it all sounds bizarre. I believe in being sensible in dealing with sick animals. Put them down as quickly and painless as possible if necessary. To let an animal lay and suffer when there is no hope of recovery is cruel. It sounds like guy was not all there”retarded” and the woman who owned the pony was neglectful as well. When the pony was first injured she should have taken it home to prevent it from further injury. This guy probably hadn’t killed a horse before and didn’t realize a lick to the head with a baseball bat wouldn’t kill it instantly. I have had to put animals down and it is a painful necessary job.

  16. Wade Newman says:

    I say Mrs Trantham should be in trouble for not taking responsibility and dumping the horse off on a mentally handicapped person.

  17. Mandy says:

    Unbelievable…. if this is not considered torture and worthy of some type of legal consequence, what chance do animals in Drew County have? Can you imagine the force it would take to beat a pony to death? That poor animal did nothing wrong. If they felt the need to kill the pony, there are DEFINITELY more humane ways to do so.

    Also, why was the pony allowed to be attacked on two seperate occasions? Was it not protected from animals? Sad all the way around… animals are brought into OUR lives.. they don’t choose us.

  18. Unbelievable! Sometimes Juries “aint’t all there”

  19. Madison says:

    After the horse was attacked by pit bulls, Peggy Trantham, the owner of the horse, was given detailed instructions from the veterinarian on how to treat the animal’s wounds, including giving it daily injections. She asked Benjamin Briney, who testified that he was a special education student in school, to take on the responsibility of caring for the horse, which he did. Then the poor animal was attacked a second time by vicious dogs. When Ms. Trantham was told about the second attack not only did she not call the vet to check the horse, she couldn’t even be bothered to go to where the horse was located to check on it.
    The horse was suffering. The owner, Peggy Trantham, told Benjamin Briney to “handle it” and he did with the only means available to him…a baseball bat. He didn’t have the resources to have a veterinarian euthanize the horse. He didn’t own a gun. He didn’t have any way to get a gun. Was it reasonable to use a bat? Maybe not to you or me, but to Benjamin Briney it was the only source he had to “handle it.”
    Beware readers.

  20. NAN CARTER says:


  21. Justwondering says:

    This is awful

  22. Don C. says:

    If an animal, (of any kind), has to be put down, it certainly should be done quickly and without pain. I fault the owner in all of this. The jury should have addressed this.

  23. TAMMY says:

    well he was all there when he beat the death out of the horse on August 1, with a baseball bat.

  24. TAMMY says:

    and if he is not all there,then put him somewhere he wont hurt anything again.

  25. Jim Hollinrake says:

    Where is the logical connection in thinking that a human can humanely kill a large muscular animal with force?

  26. MARYLOU says:


  27. blondie says:

    Oh my, how did he not “knowingly” know the pony wasn’t suffering by his actions. Anytime someone thinks they killed the pony, and then returns to the woods seeing it still alive, then jumps up and down on the rib cage, then hit the horse in the mouth and nose with a bat while the pony is hog-tied to a tree…….Gee, what is these people’s definition of torture, and suffering!!!

  28. Laura says:

    This makes me ill!

  29. Lilly says:

    apparently the jury wasn’t all there either.

  30. Sara says:

    I am so disturbed by this! We just passed legislation to deal with people like this and then not guilty? When will the message be sent that this is not okay and punishable??

  31. two cents says:

    Just like our fair town to get around an issue. Now we send the message that it’s a law,but we are not going to enforce it.

  32. JM says:

    I think the jury failed in a MAJOR way. How can they find him not guilty when he, himself admitted to doing it!? This is absolutely ridiculous! I also agree that the owner should have responsibility in this as my eyes she is a coward and is just as guilty as he is. What in the world is going on in this county when people are allowed to get away with killing animals and people alike with hardly even a slap on the wrist…just pathetic, and very scary.

  33. trottergirl says:

    Well, I agree with the jury and the jury I am upset with that gave the girl little time for killing a 16yr. old boy. That was an animal, the boy was human. Now everybody’s talking about this jury but were easy on the other jury. And to the poster that said that since he is “slow” he shouldn’t be allowed in “our” town. How ridiculous is that” So what your saying is all mentally handicapped people shouldn’t be here and have rights?

  34. DC Alumni says:

    Madison is the only person who is on the right track with the whole case. I know Ben. He has been a good kid, but by being special some people usually take advantage of them. He was gone for a period from school and I asked him where he had been? He told me he had followed the wrong crowd and had gotten into trouble. Ben may need help, but prison is not for him. He would certainly be taken advantage of there. He needs guidance and people who care about him to keep him on the right track. Don’t judge people, if you haven’t walked in their shoes. The jury did the right thing. They are intelligent people. Give credit where credit is due. Thank you jury for doing the right thing.

  35. TAMMY says:

    mrs. Trantham should also be in trouble for this. that poor pony had to suffer.this is so sad all i do is cry when i read about this. and i know maybe i should’nt read it anymore,…. BUT I KNOW WHAT I WILL DO,I’LL BE PRAYING FOR Benjamin Briney AND Peggy Trantham….THANK GOD HE FORGIVES EVERYONE…

  36. Heather says:

    This is just disgusting. Everyone involved should have been convicted. The owner that left poor Cupid in the care of a mentally disabled person and the said person who slowly killed poor Cupid.

    It is time that as a nation we stepped up and began to make people take personal responsibility for their actions. This Briney knew Cupid was in pain and hurting, so he continued to abuse it. I’m sure he had a telephone and could have called someone to help. This took place in Arkansas. You can’t tell me he didn’t know anyone that owned a gun!

    The owner should be prosecuted for neglect. Period. She neglected Cupid by leaving him in the care of Briney. She neglected Cupid by not removing him after the FIRST attack. She neglected Cupid by not getting him proper medical care or ensuring a good end via a bullet following the second attack. The fact that she told Briney, someone mentally incapable, to “take care of it”, is not even….Prosecute that woman!

    Arkansas needs to seriously take a look at this case a make up for all of it’s failures. Starting with any prosecution possible for anyone involved in this case. They also need to find some way to lock this Briney person up so he can’t her anyone else. It only escalates.

    Arkansas has a bad reputation and this case will only add to it.

  37. Lee Ann says:

    Where are these vicious pit bull dogs now? I live in that area and I am concerned about vicious dogs running around attacking other animals. This a very sad situation all the way around.

  38. Randy says:

    Put the blame where it belongs, with the OWNER.

  39. Ann says:

    This is torture, plain and simple. This young man saw the animal suffering from his blows, and continued to harm it, and also restrained it during the torture. Ridiculous. I am ashamed to live in a society where someone can murder a horse and there will be no justice.

  40. Dana says:

    The jurors that ended up rolling over should have stuck to their ground. I honestly couldn’t care any less about how “slow” this man is. He deserves to be punished!! I have a huge heart for any animal and this made me sick. Lord knows I hope I’m never hurt and have him near me to put me out of my misery with a baseball bat!!!! As far as the Trantham lady goes….she deserves a stiff punishment too.

  41. possumfabulouse says:

    alotta good the new law done. My heart goes out to the horse, and all the people like myself who were sickened by the horrible event and then in my opion an unjust verdic. RIP poor little pony, some day his crime will catch up with him, and all who were involved will somewhere somehow have it come back on them.

  42. Mac says:

    Every known serial killer in custody started by torturing and killing animals. The evidence linking animal abuse to violence against humans is overwhelming, but law enforcement refuses to take the threat seriously. What if Mr. Briney next decides to beat somebody’s child to death to keep it from suffering?

    I hope and pray that the jurors in this case will not regret their ill-advised decision to release a violent individual with diminished mental capacity back into society.

  43. Pam Ford says:

    Way to go Arkansas!!! Let’s let all the other states see how really, really dumb we can be!!! Sure wish I had been on the jury! Believe me, there would have been a different outcome, don’t care how long it took!!

  44. Shelby says:

    People need to learn ALL the facts before they make judgements. Thats what jurys are for. They hear all the facts and be impartial not just jump to conclusions!

  45. Shelby says:

    I sure hope they bring charges on Ms. Tranham, and I hope i’m on the jury! THAT’s where justice will be done!!!!!

  46. Facebook User says:

    I agree with Trottergirl.Thats all I am going to say!

  47. Facebook User says:

    Well maybe that is not all I have to say.The pony by no means deserved that kind of treatment,I do not believe prison is where Mr.Briney belongs though,but I believe a ‘not guilty’ verdict accomplished nothing.

    I agree with Trottergirl,that some other cases werent given this much attention and were just as, if not,MORE, severe.I also agree with Trottergirl,in that just because someone is “special” doesnt mean they dont belong in this town,they have just as much right to be here as the next person.

  48. Rai says:

    This story repluses me. This is blatant animal cruelty. That guy had better be relieved I wasn’ on that jury. How barbaric! I am so deeply disappointed in the verdict and the people in SE Arkansas. You are much more backward that I had thought. You should be very ashamed of this verdict.

  49. Get the facts says:

    If you were not in the courtroom you really don’t know how this jury came to thier verdict. Sometimes animals must be put down. His choice of a bat was not the best, but it was not used or intended to be used for torture only to stop an animal from suffering anymore. He did not “knowingly tourtue”. He just wanted to stop the animal from hurting and dying a slow death his intentions were good. Jury made a tuff but correct verdict.

  50. MELISSA says:


  51. MARYLOU says:

    i know the boy and his brother, both been into alot of trouble, but letting him go, is not right, they do need help,but they keep letting them go.

  52. Bran says:

    PETA in full force today?

    Seems like a few of you saw “animal cruelty” and decided at that moment to choose sides. You guys are WAY off base here. The fault lies with the owner of the horse who left it in the sole care of the “Slow” 20 year old. This is an owner who admitted she did not take the horse to a vet after the SECOND attack on the animal. This is the owner that used the words, “Take care of it” and “Handle it” when referring to the SECOND attack. I’m thinking she should have been a tad bit more clear when telling the “slow” 20 year old kid to “take care of it”. So she expected him to take the horse to the vet? who was going to pay for it. Please. She knew exactly what she was saying when she said, “take care of it.”

    This kid was the only person taking care of the horse over the duration of it’s illness and this kid was following the word of the horse’s owner. The jury kept going back to the word “KNOWINGLY” for a damn good reason. Good job, jury.

  53. lookout says:

    melissa are u saying its ok to beat dogs with a bat, but wrong to beat a horse with one. in this young mans mine he thought he was doing the right thing rather it was or not he thought it was. most of these posters dont know all the facts just like i dont, but we are quick to judge someone by what we have read or how we feel. we should be looking for ways to help people like this.

  54. Nana says:

    As far as his being enticed into trouble before, he did that nasty deed all on his own. However, I, too, believe that the animal’s owner should be held responsible. She knew this guy, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he’s not the brightest bulb in the box. Obviously, she didn’t care what happened to the pony, as long as she didn’t have to pay a vet’s bill. However, one can have a low intelligence and still have a moral compass. I believe a three year old child would have known this was a terrible thing to do. The jury had more compassion than the defendant did.

  55. Shelby says:

    Never heard a word about the Smith,s. They just moved. They should have told Ms. Trantham to take the horse back home after the first attack–since she couldnt figure it out on her on!!!

  56. Dana says:


    Not all SE Arkansas people are backwards. Saying so makes you look backwards….=) Where are you from again? And why are you reading news from SE Arkansas?? I agree that the jurors should have stuck to their grounds but if you read here, there are so many more people that have different opinions than those jurors.

  57. RJ says:

    This is cruelty, no matter how you look at it. The boy who did this needs psychiatric help that’s for sure, and someone needs to pay for this horrible loss of life. What good is this new felony animal cruelty law if it is has no teeth?

  58. Well.. I do live here in Monticello and had heard about this back in August,, and as me and a SE Arkansas Humane Society employee had been talking about it,, we had been wondering what had happened,, and then,, WOW! I get a pop up on my computer about the Verdict.

    I cannot believe this boy got away with this, he became an adult as of the age of 18 and I believe he knew exactly what he was doing..I already know that here in Monticello, people dont take this new animal cruelty law seriously,,People have been allowed to get away with everything when harming an animal and here is another one who got away with it..

    Someone needs to be held responsible for the murder of this innocent animal.

  59. dragonheart says:

    Well this is the most back*** thing I have ever heard of. When a person openly admits to commiting a crime does that not make him/her guilty.. Serial killers are more humane than this guy was with their victims. Of corse it doesn’t surprise me when it comes to Arkansas judicial system, we lost 4 good police officers just 20 minutes from where I live because your ex-govenor pardoned him. So letting off an animal killer is just another day in the life of those in Arkansas.

  60. Ohh and excuse me Dana.. But do people not have the right to read news from SE Arkansas just because they are not from here..Haha.. Wait till I post this link on my myspace page and see how man animal activist from all of the world gets on here and voices their oppinion..This WAS a serious CRIME and it was commited against a helpless horse who was entertaining kids at a birthday party if I read it right..WHAT DID THIS PONY DO WRONG?? Where is the Justice for this defenseless animal….and it is not something to be swept under the rug.. IT needs attention!!

  61. Aero Ferguson says:

    I see the guilty party given a slap on the wrist in these cases all too often. This is a terribly brutal crime. It should be given the attention it deserves by punishment being given out in spades.

  62. Dana says:


    I wasn’t taking up for this idiot that killed the pony. Rai was speaking about the people of se Arkansas like we ALL were backwards. I asked where she was from because she was downing the people from here. Please do put it on your myspace!!!:) This does need some attention!!! I am totally disgusted in this verdict. Sorry if you read it any other way!

  63. Jalissa says:

    This is probably one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read. Okay so, they took it to the vet the first time, but they didn’t even bother to call the vet the second time? That alone is enough to make my stomach turn. This horse was in pain, and they just ignored it! I just can’t get over it. A poor little pony was BEATEN TO DEATH with a bat? How is that not considered cruelty? And the part that breaks my heart the most is how the pony apparently tried to get up and was hog tied.. That poor poor pony. I

  64. mits says:

    Unbelieveable,that him and the owner did not get punish.I just wonder how the juriors,would react if one of their pets was killed in this same way?
    This amazes me.

  65. Amber says:

    This is sick and wrong. I freak out when I see a small cut on my horse, let alonE if my horse was attacked by something. I’d still consult with a vet or a knowledgeable person. Apparantly the horses owner did’nt want the horse or the costs of sending the horse to the vet….This is soooo sad

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