Local man pleads guilty to sexually abusing horses, sentenced to probation

A Hood River man accused of sexually abusing horses has been released from jail following the approval of a plea deal.

Jose Guadalupe Chaires Barrios, 49, of Hood River, was sentenced last week to 24 months of probation by Hood River County Circuit Court Judge Alan Wolf after pleading guilty to charges of sex abuse of an animal as well as second-degree criminal trespassing. According to Chaires’ court-appointed attorney, Brian Starns, Chaires entered the property of Denny and Tammy Armacost at 4715 Portland Drive “without permission and suspicions were aroused involving a horse or multiple horses,” which Chaires is accused of having sexual contact with between Sept. 25 and Sept. 30. The nature of the sexual contact was not discussed in court.

In addition to those charges, Chaires also pleaded to second degree criminal mischief for an incident where he “damaged the screen window owned by Gail and Blake Palen” at their Reed Road property between May 1 and July 1, according to Starns. Chaires also pleaded guilty to a charge of contempt of court for violating the terms of a restraining order filed against him by his ex-wife. Chaires also pleaded guilty for failing to perform duties of a driver when he lost control of his vehicle June 10, according to court documents, and damaged some property on Portland Drive, which Starns said consisted of a fence, and “did not perform all the duties required of a driver.”

For all the charges, Judge Wolf sentenced Chaires to 24 months of supervised probation, 160 hours of community service, $700 in fines, $250 in court-appointed attorney fees, ordered Chaires to have no contact with the Armacosts, Palens, and his ex-wife and to stay 500 yards away from the Palen and Armacost properties, to obey all restraining orders, to not drive without valid license or insurance, not use or possess any intoxicants, to obtain a mental health evaluation and complete any recommended treatment, to not own or have any contact with any animals, and “to not be on Portland Drive or Reed Street.”

Chaires may also be required to pay restitution to the Armacosts and the Palens, who Rasmussen said installed security cameras on their properties after the incidents. Rasmussen noted that though Chaires is not being charged with sex abuse of animal in the Palen case, she mentioned that Blake Palen has “noticed serious behavioral problems with at least one or more of his horses,” which he attributed to Chaires’ conduct.

“He’s very alarmed by it and alarmed also by the sense of safety that they’ve lost in their home, and farm,” Rasmussen said of Palen, “and frankly it’s good that it was resolved in this manner because I think it’s a very real possibility that Mr. Chaires could have been seriously physically injured given that Mr. Palen was essentially feeling like he had to hide in his barn to look after his horses; he’s not the only one that’s felt that way in the community. I think Mr. Chaires needs to be on notice that there are folks that are protecting property and rightfully, that includes possessing weapons and there’s very much a heightened awareness of this going on in the community.”

Rasmussen added that Tammy Armacost was also “extremely upset” by what happened with her animals.

“A lot of these people feel about their horses like they’re children and I think Mrs. Palen and others don’t like the way that I’ve agreed to resolve this case,” she explained. “They feel that not enough is happening in this case and I’ve had to meet with them and explain these are only misdemeanors.”

Rasmussen added that the only “sympathy” victims felt in these cases was toward “the defendant’s own children, who have to live and go to school in this community with their dad doing this stuff.”

Chaires, who attended the proceedings via video screen from the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility in The Dalles, spoke with the aid of a Spanish translator, but said little. When given the opportunity to speak about the case at the conclusion of the proceedings, Chaires declined.

Judge Wolf wished Chaires good luck, but cautioned that there would “likely be severe sanctions” if he violated the terms of his probation.

“I hope you take this opportunity with regard to the treatment and take advantage of that,” Wolf said.

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