Wilson County trio released on bond following arrest in connection to donkey theft

All three suspects face misdemeanor theft, criminal trespassing charges

Alena Gutierrez, Nickol Sullivan-Santos, Pamela Johnson (KSAT)

Wilson County, Texas – Three women, including a board member of the Floresville Independent School District, have been released on bond following their arrests Wednesday on charges related to the theft of a donkey from a pasture in rural Wilson County.

Alena Berlanga, Nickol Sullivan-Santos and Pamela Johnson all face charges of theft $100-$750 and criminal trespassing, Wilson County Sheriff’s officials confirmed this week.

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All three were booked Wednesday and later released on bond, a jail official confirmed Thursday.

Berlanga, Sullivan-Santos and Johnson are accused of going onto a pasture in the 7000 block of FM 2579 on June 8 and taking a donkey they believed was delivering a foal.

RELATED: Arrest warrants issued for Floresville ISD board member accused of donkey theft

The pasture was secured by a fence and gate lock, a Wilson County Sheriff’s investigator said.

The donkey was taken to a ranch in Wilson County but the foal had not survived the birth, the investigator said.

The donkey was treated by a veterinarian and returned to the pasture, according to the investigator, who added that the three suspects did not have permission to go onto the property or to take the donkey.

An attorney representing Berlanga released a statement Wednesday claiming that the animal was rescued because it was in need of medical attention:

The warrants for Ms. Berlanga’s arrest stem from accusations as Ms. Berlanga helped rescue an animal desperately in need of medical attention. The people involved in this matter had only the intent to save an animal who was unable to fully give birth to a deceased and partially decayed foal. Ms. Berlanga is a certified animal control officer as well as the President and Founder of the Wilson County No Kill Animal Shelter. The shelter covered the cost of medical care for the animal and the animal was returned to the property after receiving care.

Berlanga represents Floresville ISD’s District 6, according to the district’s website.

Floresville ISD Board President Penny Smith released the following statement Wednesday:

The charges are, by no means, how we want to represent ourselves as a Board. This is very unfortunate. Allegations such as these do not promote the best interests of the District.

Wilson County District Court records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders Thursday show that in an unrelated incident, Sullivan-Santos was named in a lawsuit earlier this year, accusing her of refusing to return a horse that was being temporarily housed at a ranch owned and operated by her.

The lawsuit, filed in late January, states that Sullivan-Santos unlawfully claimed ownership of the horse after another woman rescued it from a kill pen and agreed to house it at Sullivan-Santos’ ranch while it was quarantined and made ready for adoption.

Three other people associated with the ranch, Remedy Ranch Rescue, were also named in the suit.

The horse was returned by Sullivan-Santos earlier this year and taken to another rescue group after the woman who filed the suit paid for vaccinations and the horse’s care while it was with Sullivan-Santos, according to a person familiar with the case.

An official with the Wilson County District Clerk’s Office confirmed the lawsuit was dismissed in February.

Sullivan-Santos declined to comment on the pending criminal case against her, according to a statement posted on Remedy Ranch Rescue’s Facebook page.

Johnson could not be reached for comment.

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About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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