FLORIDA -- A stable owner in south Florida cautioned a veterinarian about yelling at people on an equestrian trail near the barn and wondered why she kept a horse under a blanket in 80-degree weather.
But what really drew suspicion to the former Palos Park vet was trying to camouflage white markings on expensive show horses with Rust-Oleum paint.
was charged over the weekend with stealing two horses in Illinois and a third in Florida, and dealing in stolen property for allegedly selling one of the Illinois horses to an unsuspecting buyer. She also is charged with stealing a horse trailer and two saddles.
The two Chicago-area horses that disappeared in the fall were being prepared for a trip home by trailer on Tuesday or Wednesday.
"I'm ecstatic, but I'm in shock," said Jolene Novak-Racevicius of New Lenox, whose horse Keller was stolen Oct. 8 from the Top Brass Horse Farm in Orland Township. "I'm happy to have her back, but I'm sad about the way she was treated. I was told she's underweight and very shy from being abused."
Crighton, 44, formerly known as Cathy Mance, was being held Monday in the Palm Beach County Jail in Florida. She was placed on suicide watch after she put her head in a toilet, sheriff's deputies said, and a county judge has ordered her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. She is scheduled for a bail hearing Wednesday, sheriff's investigator Sgt. Michael Wingate said.
He said Crighton admitted stealing a horse from a New Lenox owner but claimed she only picked up the other Illinois horse and the Florida horse when she found them wandering.
Crighton quickly drew the attention of stable owner Sohail Shahzada, whom she approached Jan. 22, the morning after the Florida horse was stolen, saying she desperately needed a place for a horse that was being delivered that day from Chicago, Shahzada said.
Shahzada noticed Crighton avoiding people passing near the barn on a public equestrian trail, he said.
"Every night my neighbor passes my barn walking her Great Dane, and I noticed that Dr. Crighton got nervous every time she passed, and two or three times she screamed at her to get off the property," Shahzada said. "I asked her, please, don't scream at my neighbors, they are nice people and they are on a public path," he said.
Within a few weeks Crighton brought two other horses to his stable, which were found to be the missing Illinois horses, he said.
"One day I went out to the barn and found her putting Rust-Oleum paint on the horse's face, with a brush. Now that just didn't make sense. I'm no expert on horses, but I know what Rust-Oleum is for, and it's not for horses," Shahzada said.
Wingate said Shahzada was surprised by Crighton's poor treatment of the animals and became suspicious when he heard that a horse had been stolen nearby. He found the missing horse's trainer, who identified the horse, and police were called, Shahzada said.
(Chicago Tribune - March 4, 2003