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Felony charges for hay theft arise during murder investigation

The killing of an 83-year-old New York socialite in her home in Westchester County has sparked an intensive investigation that has captivated observers locally and statewide. The woman was found dead on Nov. 9 in the laundry room of her 300-acre horse farm in North Salem. Most people following the investigation did not expect the first significant news to be the recent arrest of two of the family's caretakers for felony charges of stealing hay.

The two men charged with grand theft felony of about $30,000 worth of hay are reportedly not suspected by police of killing the socialite. Nonetheless, the initial focus of police to look at break-ins occurring in the area has reportedly shifted recently to an examination of the local immigrant labor population. They are generally employed to take care of the horses and livestock that inhabit the numerous horse farms dotting the beautiful rolling countryside.

A spokesperson for the New York State Police stated that the hay theft charges were "tangentially" discovered as a result of the ongoing murder investigation. Police indicate that there has never been a criminal case of hay theft in recent memory in the state. Reporters interviewed experts on horse care who live in the area, and they indicated that stealing hay is not commonplace. The main reason is because it may take hours to load a truck with many dozens of bales of hay.

The thefts in question allegedly took place over a three-year period and not in one big haul. Hay can sometimes become valuable during a drought, but it is not generally the item chosen by thieves to steal due to the obvious difficulty in packing and transporting. The family of the deceased socialite reportedly were not aware that a hay pilfering enterprise was taking place on the horse farm. The leveling of felony charges by New York authorities against the two laborers has stimulated even more interest in the growing mystery regarding the woman's death.

Source: The New York Times, "In Lois Colley Murder Investigation, 2 Are Accused of Stealing Hay From Farm", Marc Santora and Sarah Maslin Nir, Jan. 6, 2016

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