By Wendy Post —
On Jan. 29, 2024, Boyd H. Fenton, age 32 of Athens, Pa., headed to the Tioga County Courthouse with his Public Defender, Tom Cline, where he pleaded guilty to several charges related to the Nov. 9, 2023 fire at the horse barns at Tioga Downs Casino & Resort racetrack located in Nichols, N.Y.
Originally facing charges that included Assault in the second-degree, a class “D” felony; Arson in the third degree, a class “C” felony; Burglary in the third degree, a class “D” felony; Criminal Mischief in the second degree, a class “D” felony and then 105 Animal Cruelty Counts added by Tioga County District Attorney Kirk Martin, Fenton pleaded guilty on Monday to the Arson and Assault Charges, but only 30 counts on the animal cruelty charge. Sentencing is scheduled for April 19, 2024 for Fenton at the Tioga County Courthouse in Owego, N.Y.
In an interview with District Attorney Martin on Wednesday, he stated that he is applying the maximum that the State will allow, but that the sentence for each charge will have to run concurrently.
“Because all of the crimes resulted from the one act of setting a fire, New York State requires the sentences to be served concurrently,” the district attorney added.
For the Arson charge, Fenton will receive an indeterminate sentence of between five to 15 years in prison. For the Assault charge, Fenton will receive a determinate sentence of seven years in prison, followed by three years post-release supervision.
For the Injury to Domestic Animals charge, a Class E felony, Fenton will receive an indeterminate sentence of a year and a third to four years in prison for each of the 30 counts; again, running concurrently.
And although the charges will put Fenton behind bars for a while, the District Attorney was hopeful that the law would allow for more.
“The sentence, even though it’s the maximum we could offer, still isn’t enough,” said DA Martin, adding, “But we did the best we could, working within the parameters of New York State Law.”
The District Attorney also talked a bit about what happened the morning of Nov. 9, 2023, and the moments leading to Fenton’s arrest.
DA Martin stated that there really wasn’t a specific motive. Fenton basically stopped on the highway, according to the district attorney, following a period of time where he hadn’t slept. He went onto the property and into the barns and began running around.
“He thought people were chasing him,” said DA Martin.
We were unable to get a toxicology report, but drugs were a factor, according to the district attorney.
Because of Fenton’s actions in the early morning hours on Nov. 9, 2023, 30 horses that were stabled there perished, and a trainer at the stables sustained burns that needed to be treated after trying to release the horses from their stables.
Now all that is left is rebuilding, and a memorial that will be set at the site where the horses were buried, and along the backside of the track by the barns.
That fateful morning touched the community and beyond, prompting horse lovers to gather in honor and memory of the lives lost, and communities that launched fundraisers to assist the Harness Horsemen’s Association with rebuilding. A GoFundMe sailed up to $200,000 with Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs and chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, matching up to the first $100,000 donated to the cause.
The recovery has been a labor of love, and now some justice will be served.
Their names; Always Smooth, Better Call Saul, Birdie Three, Blazin Mooss, Buzzards R Flying, Da Boogie Man, Danzon Hanover, Diamond Express, Fireside Tail, Grant Me This, Hall It Off, Hot Shot Joe, Hunts Point, Ideal Chance, Its Rigged, Karpathos, Lone Wolf American, Market Mayhem, Mc Mach, My Delight, Payara, Pineapple Sundae, Pocket Watch N, Prairie Dutchess, Ruff Montana Lane, SD Watch Me Now, Silverhill Misty, Slave Labour, Violence, and Unnamed Yearling. May they Rest in Peace.