Firefighters working to determine cause of west Columbus house fire. Get the story.
Eight horses were killed in an overnight barn fire early Monday that officials said was intentionally set.
Morgan County authorities are investigating the fire as a hate crime and the State Fire Marshal's office ruled the fire was intentionally set.
Farm owner Brent Whitehouse said he believes he was the target of a hate crime, 10TV News reported.
Before torching the barn, someone painted homophobic messages on the outside of the building, officials said.
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With the intense heat, Whitehouse said he could do nothing to get the horses out.
"Whoever did this, I can't believe they would take the time to actually harm an innocent animal," Whitehouse said. "Because the way that barn burned, they had to be around those horses. And to see a little baby colt, a week old, and know that they were going to kill it."
The animals were show horses. Along with their value and the equipment in the barn, Whitehouse estimates the damage at more than $500,000.
No arrests were immediately made.
Anyone with information about the fire or the messages painted on the barn is asked to call the State Fire Marshal at 800-589-2728 or the Morgan County Sheriff's Office at 740-962-4044.
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