Toni Gray has little doubt her four-year-old Morgan gelding, Sox, ran up to the fence to greet his killer that night in July.

Toni Gray has little doubt her four-year-old Morgan gelding, Sox, ran up to the fence to greet his killer that night in July.

Though once mostly wild, Sox had become as friendly and trusting as his stable mate, Izzy. The pair often ran up to the fence to greet their owners, accept treats or inspect any visitors who happened to visit their pasture near Ruch.

A dispatcher for the Oregon State Police, Gray goes to bed early, by 8 p.m. most nights. She gave little thought to a loud boom that woke her shortly after 11 p.m. just before Independence Day.

"I didn't think anything of it," Gray said. "I figured it was probably fireworks. My husband found Sox the next morning when he went up to feed. He'd been shot right between the eyes.

"He was laying there where we normally feed them. Somebody either drove up or walked up to that corner and (the horses) came right up thinking, 'Oh, somebody was going to feed us or whatever.' I think he was probably dead before he hit the ground. At least I hope he was."

While the case is two months old, Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Jeff Allison, of the Fish and Wildlife Division, said the severity of the case, and the nature of the crime, could find the case staying active for a long time.

The Grays are offering a $1,000 reward for information about the crime. Allison said he is pursing leads as they come in and awaiting evidence processing by the state crime lab. With state budget cuts, processing is slow at best.

Thus far, Allison said, facts are few.

Whoever shot Gray's horse trespassed nearly a quarter-mile onto her property and was likely on foot, because her dogs did not bark the night Sox was shot.

"We're looking into all the possible leads," Allison said. "We have some persons of interest. I wouldn't call them suspects but we're checking on every possible lead. Because of how serious the charges are, we'll probably get a resolution on it but it's going to take a while."

Most likely, Allison said, the break in the case would come from information provided by neighbors.

"I think it's going to take somebody from the neighborhood to go and do the right thing and put this thing to rest," he said. "Somebody's got to have some morals in this neighborhood. This was a lovable pet and someone just mowed him down. To this family, it's like shooting their kid."

Gray was saddened to think Sox's newfound fondness for people resulted in his death.

"He'd run wild for two years before I got him so he was kind of standoffish when I first got him," she said. "When he died, he was at the point where he'd see me coming, or my husband, and come running to us. It didn't matter if we had anything for him or not. He was just a magnificent animal."

Trooper Allison is requesting anyone with information on the case to contact him at 776-6114, Ext. 370.