Convicted horse abuser facing new charges in Brown and Manitowoc counties
A man with a history of abusing horses is facing new charges in two counties, according to Brown County prosecutors.
Jail records show Sterling Rachwal, 53, was booked Monday on three recommended charges: Mistreatment of Animals; Sexual Gratification with an Animal; and Burglary.
Wednesday morning, a Brown County jail schedule listed an additional charge of Mistreatment of Animals, and an additional charge of Sexual Gratification with an Animal.
At a probable cause hearing Wednesday afternoon, the state says a man believed to be Rachwal was seen running from a barn in February, where a horse was found to be abused and had a bleeding rectum. Witnesses reported a red Ford Explorer frequenting the area. Rachwal drives a red Ford Explorer. Rachwal told investigators he had an alibi, that he was at a bar or in his apartment above the bar, but security video didn't support his alibi.
In late March, investigators planted a GPS device on Rachwal's vehicle that showed him driving repeatedly between the bar and an area near Manitowoc. Deputies found a barn with horses there, and received the property owner's permission to install cameras. They say footage shows Rachwal repeatedly molesting a horse. Confronted with photos from the cameras, Rachwal told investigators, "You don't know that's me."
Brown County prosecutors say they're charging Rachwal with misdemeanors only because they couldn't find a way to charge him with a felony. No animals died, and there was no mutilation that fit the definition under state laws.
Brown County prosecutors say Manitowoc County is also pursuing charges, although prosecutors hope to reconcile them to try the entire case in Brown County.
The State argued for a $10,000 cash bond. "What's concerning," they said, "he knew he was being investigated and continued to go and assault horses. So we are asking significant cash bond." The defense argued Rachwal's last offense was seven years ago and asked for $300 bond.
The court set bond at $5,000 cash.
As Action 2 News reported in February, a barn owner checked on her horse and found it had been molested. The animal's rectum was bleeding.
The Sheriff's Office told Action 2 News that it was investigating the case, but no arrests had been made at the time.
Court records show Rachwal's history of animal abuse in Wisconsin.
In 1993, Rachwal was convicted of mistreating animals and having sexual relations with them in Monroe County. He was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison, but asked to withdraw his no contest pleas. A court of appeals ruled in his favor.
In 1997, Rachwal was found not guilty due to mental disease/defect for a charge of Mistreatment of Animals in Waupaca County. He was sent to Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison.
In 2008, he was released from Mendota and he moved to Fond du Lac County.
In 2010, he was charged with disorderly conduct in Fond du Lac County after he was found inside a barn, allegedly wearing latex gloves.
Rachwal was found guilty of disorderly conduct and sent back to Mendota. He was released from the institution in 2015.
Action 2 News will continue to update this developing story.