For years, Juanita Carillo’s two miniature horses, Big Red and Scout, greeted her each morning from a small paddock in front of her Penngrove home. Now, the only reminder of her companions is two handmade crosses marking the site where a hit-and-run driver fatally injured her pets Saturday.
Carillo, who has lived on the Minnesota Avenue property for nearly three decades, was awoken around 2 a.m. to the sound of a crash. The driver took off, and Carillo was unaware her pets had been hurt until a CHP Officer’s flashlight beam illuminated Big Red crumpled on the ground. Scout was standing, though badly injured. Both horses were euthanized amid the wreckage.
As the investigation unfolds, Carillo’s deep wounds from the loss of her pets are slowly beginning to mend as the community unites around her.
“The amount of compassion and support from people is overwhelming,” Carillo, 59, said. “My living room is full of flowers and candy from people who have stopped by. It’s amazing.”
Carillo, who owns a dog grooming business, posted on social media imploring friends to help track down information based on parts from a Honda CRV found at the scene. A Facebook post was quickly shared more than 5,000 times, with nearly 100 comments from supporters on the social media site Nextdoor.
Messages of sympathy poured in, and a steady stream of cars has continued past her house to pay condolences to Carillo and her horses, who she quickly learned had become a landmark in their own right.
Her son bought Scout as a gift about 10 years ago after Carillo put down another horse, and she purchased Big Red, the smaller of the two, several years later. Her grandsons, 3 and 8, were also fond of the horses.
“I never really put much thought into the fact that they were out there and people could drive by and see them … A couple showed up here crying and so upset,” she said. “They had grown so attached to them and a lot of people had brought their kids by.”
Several neighbors posted on Nextdoor to share memories and offer a helping hand.
“I am devastated for you,” Penngrove’s Hillary Smith wrote. “I drove by your horses every day and would always slow down and say hi to them from my window.”
A local real estate agent gave Carillo a $500 check, while another passerby brought her an Easter lily and $40, she said.
The social media post also made a mark on the investigation. Cotati Police Officer Bennet Knight arrested Ronald Rennert, 39-year-old Oakland man, on suspicion of drunken driving on southbound Highway 101 near Petaluma early Saturday morning, Police Chief Michael Parish said. Rennert was “severely intoxicated,” when the officer pulled him over after noting that his vehicle was damaged and he was swerving while driving westbound on West Sierra Avenue, Parish said.
Carrillo said officers told her Knight later talked about the arrest with other Cotati police officers, and after an official brought up the social media post, Knight contacted the CHP.
Officials believe Rennert’s SUV, which matched car parts found at the scene and had front end damage that included tufts of fur, was the vehicle involved in the incident, Sgt. Andrew Henkens. The CHP is looking into whether Rennert was behind the wheel at the time of the crash, Henkens said Sunday. No further information was available Wednesday.