One of three horses that escaped from an animal haven in Manorville was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer on Sunrise Highway early yesterday, Suffolk police said.
The other two horses were later found and returned to the Double D Bar Ranch unharmed, less than a mile from where their companion was killed.
"We're absolutely devastated," said Gay Devoe, a retiree who owns the nonprofit rescue with her husband, Rich.
The Devoes said someone has been sneaking onto their 4-acre property overnight for the past three months and creating havoc at the ranch, home to hundreds of unwanted and formerly abused farm and domestic animals.
The trespasser has opened gates to let animals out and killed three sheep and a baby goat with poison, Gay Devoe said. A heavy, back wood fence was also kicked down, she said.
"You feel numb, like you've been so violated," she said, and looking back she wished they had called police when problems first started.
Rich Devoe said he had been keeping guard as many nights as he could, but overnight Wednesday someone had taken the chains off two gates to let the horse out, then put the chains back on the gates. The chains had padlocks, which are usually kept in the unlocked position, the couple said.
Police said the horse was struck at 2:50 a.m. and was apparently "standing in the roadway" on the eastbound Sunrise, about a half-mile west of Exit 59, Wading River Road, in Center Moriches.
The driver of the 2005 Peterbilt tractor-trailer was not hurt, remained at the scene and was not charged, police said.
Tucker, the horse killed, and his two companions, Chaos and Karma, who were found grazing in a neighbor's yard, were being kept at the ranch for a woman whose Bayport home burned down two years ago and who has been moving from house to house, Gay Devoe said.
Tucker, brown with white forelocks and white blade on his forehead, was a big, sweet horse, she said: "He'd always come when he was called."Over the years, the Devoes said, their security cameras, tools and even holiday decorations have been stolen.
Now, they are out of savings and with donations thin, Gay Devoe said, the nonprofit has been holding food drives every month this year.
"All we can do is hope for the best," she said. "We are going to do everything we possibly can to protect the animals."