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      Lee Co. judge orders seized horses returned to man charged with neglect

      A Lee County judge ordered the return of horses confiscated from a man charged with neglecting those very same horses.

      The court order issued by Judge Mary Ann Brown cited a procedural error committed by the Lee County Sheriff's Office when it served a warrant at the farm where 55-year-old Jeffrey Lee Graber kept his horses.

      "We find out yesterday, that Mr. Graber should have been served a notice under chapter 717 under the Iowa code which deals with animal rescue rather than under chapter 809a dealing with criminal matters," Sheriff Jim Sholl, of the Lee County Sheriff's Office, says.

      Investigators seized the 36 horses on Jan. 29 and the horses were placed with four rescue organizations in Southeast Iowa. The warrant served by the sheriff's office was one normally used for criminal seizures instead of civil matters.

      â??The Lee County Sheriff's Office will continue to monitor the horses, which have responded favorably while in foster care,â?? Sheriff Sholl said in a press release statement Thursday. â??The Lee County Attorney's Office will continue to explore options to recover expenditures incurred in this rescue operations.â??

      The court's ruling has no affect on the pending neglect charges against Graber. He was arrested Jan. 8 and charged with one count of livestock neglect, a serious misdemeanor.

      This was the first animal rescue operation performed by Lee County.

      Sheriff Sholl says they learned a lot with their first case.

      "Its unfortunate this has happened but I feel better that the horses will be returned to Mr. Graber probably in a much better condition than they rescued them." Sheriff Sholl says

      Graber was cited for similar reasons in 2011.

      The Lee County Sheriff's office will continue to monitor Graber and his horses by visiting them regularly.

      According to documents obtained by KHQA through the Freedom of Information Act, Dr. Donald Shannon, a veterinarian with Parkview Veterinary Clinic in Ft. Madison, Iowa, concluded that horses owned by Graber at that time were neglected and abused.

      Click here to read the Notice of Neglected Livestock (2011) and the veterinarian report titled Examination of Horses on the Premises of Jeff Graber (2011).