RENO, Nev. -- Party chatter overheard by the granddaughter of a sheriff's employee helped nab two Marines and a third man now accused of slaughtering 34 wild horses, the sheriff says.
Police arrested a Reno construction worker Tuesday and planned to charge two Marines in California, accusing them of killing the free-roaming mustangs with high-powered rifles."We had one lead that was a little better than the others that actually started with an employee of the sheriff's office's granddaughter who was at a party who heard a certain thing being said," Washoe County Sheriff Richard Kirkland said Tuesday.
Anthony Merlino, 21, was held on charges of grand larceny, grand theft and maiming, poisoning or killing another person's animal.
Arrest warrants on the same charges -- which carry combined maximum penalties of more than 10 years in prison -- have been issued for the two Marines being held at bases in California.
Lance Cpl. Scott Brendle, 22, was being held at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Lance Cpl. Darien Brock, 21, was being held at Twentynine Palms east of Los Angeles, Storey County District Attorney Janet Hess said Tuesday night.
"It's sad but true," said Maj. Lenny Ryan of Camp Pendleton.
Both are members of the 1st Marine Division. Both are residents of the Reno area home on holiday leave when the horses were shot Dec. 27, Storey County Sheriff Pat Whitten said.
Hess said it was not clear if some form of extradition would be necessary but that prosecutors intended to return the Marines to Nevada to face the charges.
Law officers said they did not believe military weapons were used in the shooting.
Detectives have been investigating the case since the mustangs were shot about 5 miles east of the Reno-Sparks area.
Some of the horses were maimed, and at least one was blasted with a chemical fire extinguisher.