A mother and daughter are accused of turning a Floral City rental property into pet cemetery. ABC Action News is following their trail, uncovering others the duo allegedly duped in three other states and the neglected animals left behind.
2005--Fayette County, Kentucky
Nancy Freeman, 74, and her daughter, Katherine Nygaard, 41, were charged with animal cruelty in Fayette County.
“Shortly after that a couple of weeks later, a second horse popped up. Well from that second horse it grew all the way to nine horses before July."
A police report filed with the Faulkner County Sheriff's Office shows the duo started boarding at Greenhaw's stable on March 12, 2012.
Greenhaw said the payments stopped coming from the women in June 2012.
A total of $5,000 was owed.
At first the women offered to pay Greenhaw in hay and she agreed.
The women made three payments before they once again stopped, the police report states.
Then, the Freemans talked Greenhaw into picking up a trailer in nearby Jefferson County.
Greenhaw ended up taking pity on the women and did that. She would later learn they put the trailer in Greenhaw's name and the trailer was stolen.
On the night of November 16, 2012, the women disappeared in the middle of the night.
But they did something before they left.
"She came in the middle of the night., picked up her horses she still had here, along with all of her contracts out of my office, and just completely disappeared," Greenhaw recalled.
After searching for the women, she found them in Cabot, Arkansas, in 2013. That's when she learned the women had used aliases while in contact with her.
Fearful the duo had done this before and would continue to do this, Greenhaw made a Facebook page called, "Help Find Lee Frieman (AKA Kathleen Nygaard."
The group became secret as more and more people across four states came forward with similar stories.
However, before authorities before they vanished.
Investigators tracked the women to a rental property at 6505 Mt. Tabor Road.
But again, the women were one step ahead and had already fled, deputies say.
According to deputies, the property was so destroyed, the owner sold the property after they abandoned it.
While here, deputies say the women asked to test drive a car and drove off.
2013-2015 Floral City, Florida
According to Greg Jarmon Jr., the mother and daughter found his father's Haines Court rental property on Craigslist and contacted them about renting it.
When the women showed up, deputies say Freeman told Jarmon's father of her cancer diagnosis and used this to gain sympathy and a lower rent.
It's a story deputies in Citrus County learned was used for the past 10 years in prior states.
"That's how they ran up an $8,000 back rent bill here," said Deputy Michele Tewell.
According to Tewell, the mother and daughter embellished their sob story even further.
"He had a Marine emblem on his car and so they story they told is that my husband was in the Marines and he was killed," Tewell said.
The entire story made-up.
"My father took pity and wanted to help them out," said Jarmon Jr.
Jarmon Jr. explained the women showed up with a trailer and had at least two horses at the time.
Over the next two years, the women would acquire numerous cats, dogs, one turtle, five horses, 10 rabbits and eight goats.
Deputies believe the women adopted them, rescued them or stole them.
"Why they did this, we don't know, it is puzzling," said Lora Peckham, Animal Control supervisor.
Local feed store owners bought into their sad story and provided food at a lesser charge or agreed they women could make payments later.
They never did, according to deputies.
Most of the animals were left without food and water, ultimately starving to death.
However, the horrors of what was taking place at the property would go unknown until July 10.
At that time, the women had an older dog cremated by Floral City Animal, ABC Action News confirmed.
When the vet was unable to contact the women to pick up the ashes and pay their bill, they drove to the Haines Court property. When no one answered the door, they contacted deputies.
Deputies immediately came out and conducted a well-fare check.
The home had been abandoned and what they found was disturbing.
"We found dead cats in garbage bags and we found liquefied dogs," said Heather Yates, spokesperson for the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.
Five of the rabbits were found dead in cages. Locked in without food and water.
In a backyard stable, they found a horse dead on the ground.
The horse was trying so hard to break free and find food, it chewed through the wood. It also left hundreds of hoof marks on wood as it tried kicking its way out.
Four other horses and eight goats were found on the property alive. It is believed they survived on rain water.
A turtle was also rescued.
According to Peckham, its not clear how many cats and dogs actually died, that is because the property owners hauled off four construction sized dumpsters of garbage when the took back possession.
"In that garbage, we were able to find one household garbage bag, where dead cats had literally been thrown out with the egg carton and the milk carton," Peckham explained.
Deputies and animal control officers did not go through those piles of garbage.
With the property being very rural and setback, neighbors did not smell the decay.
It was only after the horse began rotting that homeowners acres away smelled the odor.
"They referred to it as a giant litter box," Peckham said.
Jarmon Jr. told ABC Action News they had to gut them home.
He estimates there was $30,000 worth of damage.
"We are not going to be able to recover anything from them, that's doubtful, but the same time, what we saw, just the smell alone, we knew those animals were suffering, so it's nice to know they're being punished," Jarmon Jr. said.
Deputies also recovered the trailer and car stolen from Kentucky on the Floral City property.
MOTHER, DAUGHTER NOW FACING CHARGES
Deputies say they tracked down the duo at a Holiday Inn Express in Tampa on September 2.
They had one animal with them at the time, deputies say..
Both are now facing multiple felony counts of animal abuse.
They are being extradited by to Citrus County.
According to deputies, it is unlikely they will ever have to face the charges in prior states because most are misdemeanors and charges of that nature do not call for extradition.
"They need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent," Rabb said.
SOCIAL MEDIA HELPS DEPUTIES CONNECT CASES ACROSS STATES
On July 18, Greenhaw contacted deputies and animal control officers in Citrus County.
She alerted them to the Facebook page she set up and to her own story of victimization by the women.
It was through that social media site deputies were able to connect the other cases.
"The woman [Greenhaw] told she had created a Facebook page for people who had been victimized to discuss what had happened to them and to help find the perpetrators. There were people coming out of the woodwork who had been scammed out of thousands of dollars by the Freemans," Peckham said.
The Facebook page was referred to as an "invaluable resource" during the investigation and what helped crack this case.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
According to animal control officers, all of the animals rescued were nursed back to help and adopted.
Interestingly, one of the surviving horses was actually a retired thoroughbred race horse and a direct descendant of Secretariat and Seattle Slough.
Deputies want the public to become acquainted with the list of aliases the women used.
Nancy Lee Freeman
- Nancy Frieman
- Nancy Nygaard
- Nan Speed
- Nan Steed
Katherine Joanne Nygaard
- Kathleen Lee
- Kat Frieman
- Lee Freeman
- Joanne Speed
- Joanne Steed
- Joanne Flutterby (used on Facebook)
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW
Deputies added both women have expired driver's licenses.
And, a civil suit was filed in Ocala for refusal to pay Peterson & Smith Equine $2,737.87. Using an alias, deputies say Nancy provided a letter saying she could not attend court due to her seven-year-old son's annual brain and spine MRI from a prior diagnosis of Medulloblastoma being scheduled for that day.
Nancy never had a son and was too old to have given birth.
Katherine has a misdemeanor traffic warrant out of Arkansas.