The mistress and the horse executioner (Fla)

Rielle Hunter, the woman named as a former mistress of former Democratic candidate for President, John Edwards, has a dark history from her day growing up in Florida.

Fred Hiers, reporting for the Star-Banner, filed this story 13 August 2008 on

OCALA – Before she was former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards’ mistress, before she was Rielle Hunter, before she was the face splashed on national television networks, she was the teenage equestrienne Lisa Druck of Ocala.

The report continues:

Hunter’s father, James D. Druck, a successful Ocala lawyer representing insurance companies during the 1980s, was implicated in a scam that involved a local man, Tommy “The Sandman” Burns, who electrocuted horses for their owners to collect the insurance money. One of Burns’ first victims was the show horse Lisa Druck rode, Henry the Hawk.

Burns said in a 1992 Sports Illustrated interview that James Druck showed him how to electrocute Lisa’s horse using a stripped extension cord and a wall socket. Burns said Druck showed him the scam so Druck could collect $150,000 in insurance. Burns’ arrest in 1991 drew national attention. Druck died of cancer in the Tampa area in 1992.

The reports reveals the following details of the horse murder scams:

About the time Lisa Druck’s horse died, Burns had already earned the nickname “Sandman,” a term horse owners gave him because when he showed up at horse shows, invariably a horse would mysteriously die.

Burns and accomplice Harlow Arlie, both of the Chicago area, were held at the Alachua County jail after their arrest in Newberry, according to stories published by The Gainesville Sun.

Burns’ choice of execution was electrocution because many veterinarians would wrongly determine the cause of death to be colic. That became a problem for Burns in 1991 when one horse owner couldn’t get an animal insured for colic, so the owner asked Burns to break the horse’s leg instead.

So, on the night of Feb. 2, 1991, Burns held the horse while his accomplice Arlie swung a crowbar into one of the animal’s rear legs. The animal ran into the night screaming, falling onto its broken, dangling leg. The animal was euthanized when a veterinarian was called by the horse’s owner.

The two men were sentenced in Alachua County Circuit Court. Both pleaded guilty or no contest to animal cruelty and insurance fraud and received jail sentences, according to Sun file stories.

Note: Bolding and highlighting of text added.

Sources: Fred Hiers may be reached at or 867-4157. Star-Banner reporter Joe VanHoose and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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