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GREEN BAY - A Green Bay man was charged Wednesday in Brown County Circuit Court with molesting a horse.

Sterling Rachwal, 53, who lives above a bar on Bodart Street in Green Bay, has been in the Brown County Jail since last week, when a court commissioner found probable cause to hold him for a week while charges were being prepared.

He appeared again in court via teleconference from the jail, this time to be formally charged with one misdemeanor count each of mistreating an animal, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer.

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The criminal complaint suggests he likely also will face a charge of molesting a horse in Manitowoc County Circuit Court.

The complaint says the owner of a barn on State 29 in the town of Eaton saw a man later identified as Rachwal run from a stall and flee.

The barn owner discovered a horse harnessed in one of the stalls, which was not consistent with the way he and his staff would have left it. The owner contacted the horse owner, and together they learned the horse was bleeding and had been molested.

As the incident was publicized, investigators learned via the internet that people were naming Rachwal as a suspect because he had previous convictions of molesting horses in other counties, the complaint says.

While investigators gathered evidence in the case, they got legal authorization to sneak a tracking device onto Rachwal’s vehicle and discovered he had been visiting a horse barn in the Manitowoc County community of Mishicot.

The barn owner there gave investigators permission to install trail cameras in the barn, which captured video of Rachwal molesting a horse there, the complaint says.

The investigation in the Brown County incident turned up video evidence that Rachwal was not where he said he was on Feb. 17, when the molestation incident had occurred, the complaint says.

Foot tracks near the Eaton town barn matched the brand and tread design of Rachwal’s boots, and his cellphone showed evidence he was exhibiting an unusually high interest in news media reports about the investigation, the complaint says.

Rachwal was convicted of animal mistreatment in several incidents around the state in the 1980s and faced similar charges in the 1990s but was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. One of those cases was charged as a felony because the horse died from the mistreatment, prosecutors said.

Rachwal’s most recent run-in with the law was a 2010 conviction for disorderly conduct in Fond du Lac County Circuit Court, a charge brought about after he was caught in a barn, a prosecutor said at his probable cause hearing last week. Rachwal was returned to Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison until his release in 2015.

Rachwal remains in the Brown County Jail on a $5,000 cash bond. His next court appearance is May 16.

psrubas@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter@PGpaulsrubas

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