Wake County woman accused of starving horses bought 280 pounds of feed in December

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A woman accused of starving 22 horses and a dog to death had 280 pounds of feed and hay in a truck when she was arrested.

ABC11 was given access to exclusive new information in this case that rocked the Wake County equestrian community when the horses and one dog were found dead on a property in southern Wake County last month.

According to the manager of a storage facility in Apex, Janet Burleson rented a U-Haul truck on Oct. 31 but never returned it.

Kim Raposa said the truck was finally returned after Burleson's arrest when investigators found it parked at the Homewood Suites at 555 Crossroads Blvd. in Cary.

When Burleson was arrested, she listed her address as 555 Crossroads Blvd.

Kim Raposa, the woman who rented the truck to Burleson at Dutchmen Creek Self Storage, said when the truck was opened it had feed for older horses, medicines, muck bags, jugs of water, and equestrian equipment.

"It was filled with food. It had, not filled to the top, but it had some pretty expensive, good, high-fiber grain and feed. Not to mention hundreds of buckets of water, one-gallon jugs of water," Raposa told ABC11.

Raposa provided ABC 11 with a receipt found in the glove box of the truck for nearly $200 from Tractor Supply in Fuquay-Varina.

Among the items listed on it are 200 pounds of horse feed and 80 pounds of chopped hay.

Raposa, a horse lover herself who has owned horses much of her life, read about the case last week on abc11.com.

She told ABC11 reporter Ed Crump, who wrote the story, "I cried. I cried when I read your article."

That article included a video story in which a close relative of Burleson's who didn't want to be identified said, "I asked her, 'What happened?' And she told me, 'I forgot they were there.' And I was like, 'How could you possibly forget that many animals?' And she said, 'I don't know. I've been having problems.'"

But Raposa was puzzled by that comment because when Burleson didn't return the truck for weeks after her two-day rental was up, Raposa and U-Haul kept calling Burleson to try to get the truck back.

"I question how she could have forgotten it when I was a constant reminder. 'Hey, your U-Haul truck. I need it back.' I mean I don't understand," she said.

But the family member who didn't want to be identified texted ABC11 on Tuesday writing, "With the new information about feed and water in a U-Haul and based on her history with animals over the course of my life, I feel like this points more towards mental illness being the cause. Knowing how she cared for her animals makes it really hard to believe this could have happened on purpose. I just don't believe she would knowingly abandon those animals," he said.

Burleson is the author of a book about miniature horses and how they could be used as guides for the blind called 'Healing Hooves' -- a book Raposa knows about.

"Obviously the woman had a good heart and she loved horses," Raposa said.

So she is willing to consider the family member's assessment that mental illness may be at the heart of this case saying, "Given everything we're learning, it wouldn't suprise me. But it's still, it's just all still so sad."

According to records provided by Raposa, Burleson's credit card rang up more than $1,000 in fees before it would no longer accept additional charges.

The bill now stands at more than $4,700, and last week Burleson was hit with an additional criminal charge of failing to return a rented vehicle.
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