Hood River man gets jail time in horse sex abuse case

A Hood River man has been sentenced to 60 days in jail, 24 months probation, and ordered to obtain a mental health evaluation after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting horses in the Oak Grove area.

Jose Guadalupe Chaires Barrios was brought before Judge John Wolf at Hood River County Courthouse late Tuesday morning to answer to the charges, as well as to violating the terms of the probation Chaires received after he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a similar incident that occurred last fall.

Chaires was previously sentenced to 24 months of probation and was ordered to obtain a mental health evaluation after pleading guilty to charges that he sexually assaulted horses on the property of Dennis and Tammy Armacost at 4715 Portland Drive, just a stone’s throw from Oak Grove Park, in late September last year.

He was arrested again in June of this year, accused once again of sexually assaulting a female horse on the Armacost property in two separate incidents that occurred in April. As in the last case, the explicit nature of the act was not discussed publicly in court. Chaires’ attorney, Connor Sullivan, of Hood River Law firm Morris, Smith, Starns, Raschio & Sullivan, told the court that Tammy Armacost had contacted law enforcement after noticing that gates and other items on her property had been moved, which “led her to the strong belief that [Chaires] had returned.”

Sullivan said law enforcement set up surveillance cameras on the property and that “Mr. Chaires Barrios was identified in those videos.”

Deputy District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen, the prosecutor in the case, noted that this was “an emotionally traumatic case, to say the least,” for the Armacosts, who were present in the courtroom. She noted that the horse, whom she referred to as the victim in the case, was “like a member of the family,” to the Armacosts, and in “a strange confluence of events,” had died the previous evening.

Though he didn’t have enough evidence to support his claims, Dennis Armacost, addressing the court, believed Chaires was responsible for the death of his mare, the second that has occurred since the assaults began.

“As you know, we have no proof,” he said, “but the victim died last night, yesterday; the vet said it could have been from the sexual abuse, but we can’t prove it.”

Tammy Armacost, in a statement read aloud by Rasmussen to the court, railed against what she perceived as the court’s lax treatment of Chaires, whom she referred to as a “dangerous sexual predator.” She argued that Chaires should receive “serious jail time” as opposed to the “hand slap” the court had given him and believed he would soon be repeating the same crimes upon his release.

“There is no justice in this case,” Rasmussen read.

Dennis Armacost agreed and criticized what he perceived to be the leniency of Oregon’s animal abuse laws. Sexual assault of an animal is a Class A misdemeanor in Oregon, punishable of up to a year in jail.

“He hasn’t learned his lesson; what he did last fall I thought would be enough,” he said of Chaires. “There are laws in Oregon, I realize, to prevent this. The justice system is taking this way too lightly. We have contacted a friend of ours who’s a [state] senator, Chuck Thomsen, to change these laws.”

He added that he hoped changing the laws might help others, but it was too late for his own horse.

“I have to go home today and bury a horse,” Dennis Armacost said. “That was a great horse. No one should have to do that.”

Wolf agreed that Oregon’s animal abuse laws, in his opinion, weren’t “particularly sufficient,” but noted the sentence was in accordance with the law.

“I’ve always considered pets, including horses, members of the family,” he said. “However, in review of similar level offenses, anyway, it’s pretty clear that this is an appropriate sentence under Oregon law.”

Wolf then told Chaires, who said almost nothing during the proceedings, that he was “shocked and disgusted that you’d think this was a good idea to repeat.”

Sullivan noted that Chaires, whom he referred to as having a third-grade education and was a “not sophisticated individual,” could “likely lose his legal resident status” and could be deported due to the conviction. Rasmussen noted that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was aware of the Chaires case and had requested to be contacted upon his release.

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