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Sonoma County jurors Tuesday convicted one of two defendants in the death of a horse, but deadlocked on five other animal neglect charges.

After hearing jurors announce they had reached an impasse on the remaining counts against Bloomfield residents Salvador Barrera and Laura Valencia, both 35, Judge Ren?Chouteau declared a mistrial on those charges.

Bailiffs took Barrera into custody following the verdict, handcuffing him in the courtroom and taking him to Sonoma County Jail pending his sentencing next month. Valencia is not in custody.

Barrera could face probation, jail or as long as three years in prison on the animal cruelty charge.

Horse lovers who have been closely watching the trial declared the guilty verdict on the most serious charge -- a felony against Barrera -- a victory despite the no-decisions against Valencia.

"We're absolutely thrilled," said Katie Moore, a member of CHANGE, Coins to Help Abandoned and Neglected Equines. Members attended each day of the four-day trial.

"We felt the facts spoke for themselves. Any jury that would hear this case would find this man guilty," she said. "We hope this sends a message to the good people in Sonoma County that people like this are going to be prosecuted for crimes against animals."

Valencia and Barrera each were charged with four animal cruelty charges in connection with the treatment of four animals: a felony related to a horse that died, and misdemeanors in connection with two horses that were confiscated and a dog that was confiscated and later returned.

Jurors found Barrera guilty of neglecting the horse that died and not properly caring for the other two horses.

Against Valencia, jurors deadlocked on all three counts involving the horses, leaning 11-1 toward guilt on each one.

They failed to reach a verdict against either defendant in relation to the care of the dog, voting 10-2 in favor of guilt against Valencia and 8-4 toward guilt against Barrera.

Prosecutor Marianna Green said her office would announce Friday whether it would retry Valencia. She said they wouldn't seek a second trial on the unresolved misdemeanor against Barrera.

After the verdict, several jurors apologized to Green for the mistrial. They said the lone holdout wasn't convinced that Valencia bore any "care and custody" of the horses, an element necessary to prove the crime.

Valencia testified that Barrera, whom she lived with and had children with but isn't married to, was responsible for the horses' food and water. But she also testified that he didn't always stay at their Lincoln Street home and she fed the horses when he wasn't present.

Several jurors, all of whom wanted to continue to remain anonymous, said 11 other jurors tried to persuade the holdout that Valencia had the same responsibility for the animals as her boyfriend did.

"It was very hard to walk out of there with a hung jury," one woman said.

The jury forewoman, a Sebastopol resident, said the photos of the badly emaciated horse, Yiyo, clearly showed neglect and abuse on the defendants' part.

"We were all pretty horrified," she said.

A horse that should have weighed 1,100 pounds weighed less than 800 at the time of his death, veterinarian Grant Miller said. Yiyo's bones protruded around his ribs, hips, spine and withers, areas that should have healthy fat deposits.

Animal Control officer Robin Brown and Miller both testified that there was no hay or grain in the three horses' pen. A water bucket was dry. The dog also had no water when authorities arrived.

A veterinarian said Yiyo died of a twisted intestine, a condition that wasn't brought on by the lack of food and water.

Barrera testified that he was properly feeding and watering the horses. He said Yiyo was thin because of cancer and one of the other horses was underweight because of a heart murmur.

A post-mortem exam of Yiyo showed no signs of cancer. The two other horses each gained 150 pounds in the first 30 days after they were taken from Barrera and Valencia.

Of Barrera's explanations, the jury forewoman said: "He should write fiction."

Barrera is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 26.

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

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