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One of two defendants in an animal cruelty trial testified Friday that a horse that died in his care had cancer and was underweight when he got it.

The other defendant, Salvador Barrera's girlfriend Laura Valencia, laid responsibility for the horse on Barrera, saying her co-defendant was in charge of the horse's care.

Valencia and Barrera face a maximum of three years in prison on a felony animal cruelty charge in the death of that horse, Yiyo, in November. They also face three misdemeanor cruelty charges in connection with the care of two other horses seized by Animal Control officers, and a dog that was seized and has since been returned.

Barrera and Valencia, both 35, have pleaded not guilty and are out of custody during the trial.

A jury of seven women and five men are set to hear closing arguments Monday and likely will begin deliberating the case by late afternoon.

Barrera testified he was told by a man he got the horse from in early 2007 that Yiyo had cancer. The man, from Sacramento, has since moved to Mexico, Barrera said.

In court Friday, Barrera said he and two of Valencia's nephews dragged the carcass of the 800-pound horse from the pasture into the stall so Valencia's children wouldn't see it.

He also described photos he said he took of his Lincoln Street property in Bloomfield the day Yiyo died. He said he took the pictures -- which showed the stall and corral with the dead horse in the background -- to show off the property to potential renters.

Prosecutor Marianna Green challenged Barrera's explanation.

"So you were so upset after seeing this 'pet' dead in the pasture that you decided, while waiting for your nephews to help you drag him into the stall, that you'd just take some photos to help rent the house?" she asked incredulously.

Barrera said he didn't have a lot of time to rent the property out.

"Is that a yes?" Green interrupted. "I guess so," Barrera replied.

A veterinarian for the prosecution testified earlier in the week that he found no evidence of cancer in the horse. Yiyo died of torsion colic, a painful twisting of the intestines.

Dr. Grant Miller, a large-animal vet, testified that Yiyo was extremely malnourished, weighing less than 800 pounds, about 350 pounds underweight.

Miller and Animal Control Officer Robin Brown testified that they saw no food or water in the horses' stalls, nor were there any droppings from recent feedings. They also said they found no drag marks in the corral but did see marks in the dirt under Yiyo's body that looked like "snow angels." Miller said he believed Yiyo struggled desperately in his stall -- causing several fresh bruises and lacerations found on his body -- before going down and thrashing on the ground, where he died.

Feces, urine and saliva surrounding Yiyo's body, apparently excreted as his muscles loosened after death, suggested the horse died where it was found, Miller said.

Both of Valencia's nephews testified that they helped Barrera drag the horse into the stall, though their explanations varied slightly in the details.

Valencia testified late Friday that she left the horse's care to Barrera, who didn't always stay at the house. She said sometimes she fed them in the mornings before she went to work at her job at a jewelry store at Coddingtown Mall.

On cross-examination, she acknowledged that she drove by the pasture every day as she came and went and saw the thin horses.

The two other horses seized, now renamed Jack and Katie, were adopted into new homes. Green said each horse gained 150 pounds in the first month after being removed from Barrera's and Valencia's care.

Valencia's attorney argued that Yiyo died of a "natural condition," not mistreatment.

You can reach Staff Writer L.A. Carter at 568-5312 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

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