NORWICH – Lauren L. McMaster, 76, of New Berlin, appeared in Chenango County Court on Friday, his fourth appearance since being indicted by a Chenango County grand jury in May of 2012 for the alleged shooting and killing of six horses belonging to his neighbor.
McMaster faces six counts of second degree criminal mischief, a class D felony, and one count of tampering with physical evidence, a class E felony.
On Friday, the court heard the sworn testimony of the investigating officer, New York State Trooper James Place, which was reviewed along with written statements McMaster made to authorities during the course of the initial investigation.
According to his testimony, Place – on or about April 28, 2012 – responded to a call concerning two dead horses received from the horses’ owner, Joseph Mocco Jr. Upon arrival at Mocco’s Hunts Pond Road residence in New Berlin, Place did indeed discover two dead horses and – following an interview with Mocco – conducted a separate interview with Mocco’s neighbor, McMaster. During the interview, McMaster gave a written statement stating he had grown increasingly frustrated with livestock trespassing on his property and had engaged Mocco in multiple dialogues regarding his frustration. McMaster had noticed a herd of twelve or so horses in his hayfield, he said, and – deciding to take action – he loaded a 12-gauge shotgun with the intention of killing one of the animals to “send a message to Mr. Mocco.” Approaching the herd with his loaded weapon, McMaster singled out a few horses and fired multiple times.