MIAMI (CBS/WFOR) A South Florida laborer accused of slaughtering a horse was arrested Wednesday after police say they found several coolers filled with chunks of horse meat and a bag of horse legs in a van that had his bloody hand prints on it.
Miami-Dade police said Juan Martinez-Gonzalez, 44, has been charged with two counts of improper disposal of a dead animal, as well as two counts of creating a sanitary nuisance.
Investigators began searching for Martinez-Gonzalez after receiving an anonymous tip May 26, 2010, reports CBS affiliate WFOR.
According to the tipster, several men had shot and slaughtered a horse at a ranch in the Miami-area. Initially police were unable to find any evidence that an animal had killed.
That same day, police received another anonymous tip from a homeowner who called to report seeing a suspicious white van with bloody hand prints on the exterior, reports Thomson Reuters.
Officers located the van which was in the same area as the ranch they had searched earlier that day and inside found several coolers which contained chunks of meat and a bag with horse legs in it.
Samples of the meat along with blood and fingerprint samples were sent to a lab at Florida International University, where test results concluded the meat came from a horse.
Police arrested the owner of the van, as well as his passenger, for loitering and prowling, says WFOR.
The very next day police received a third tip that a horse carcass had been put in a dumpster not far from the neighborhood they canvassed the previous day. Officers located the carcass and sent more meat samples to the lab.
In June, test results showed that the carcass and the meat from the coolers came from the same animal.
Investigators were able to use the fingerprints found on the van to connect Martinez-Gonzalez to the crime. Still, it took months to track him down.
Thomson Reuters reports that animal rights activists have pushed for tougher legislation to squelch the black-market butchering of horses for human consumption in south Florida.