‘Smelled Like Death’: Discoveries At Texas Ranch Lead To Arrest

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When landscapers accepted work at a Texas ranch, nothing could have prepared them for what they would see — or smell. “The whole property just smelled like death,” one of the workers said, and he soon discovered why there was such a foul stench filling the air.

Rachel Ann Sword
The Texas ranch that was supposed to be under the care of Rachel Ann Sword (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Rachel Ann Sword, a 22-year-old Collin County woman, found herself in hot water after landscapers were hired to do a job at a Texas ranch. The young woman had reportedly assumed the responsibility of managing the ranch after the property owners — her grandparents — were allegedly no longer physically able to maintain it. However, it would seem the granddaughter wasn’t any more capable than her grandparents of caring for the animals as the landscapers would soon discover.

Alston Mays, a self-professed animal lover, was one of the landscapers who had been doing work at the ranch. However, he soon found himself taking on a much different task. Instead of landscaping, Mays was attempting to document what he had discovered at the ranch with his cell phone so that the horrific images could be shared with law enforcement in hopes that “something” would happen to those responsible for what Mays had seen — and smelled.

Alston Mays, one of the landscapers who had been doing work at the ranch (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

“The whole property just smelled like death,” Mays recalled. “Cages everywhere. Dead animals everywhere,” the landscaper added, claiming that the stench was so foul, it made him “want to throw up.” After making such gruesome discoveries on the property, the landscapers called authorities, alerting them to the decaying remains of several animals. However, it wasn’t until officials with the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control Department executed a seizure warrant at the rural ranch that authorities learned the true extent of the abuse.

According to The Blaze, officials found dozens of dead dogs locked in cages without any food or water nearby. Some had been forced into crowded kennels without any shade from the hot Texas sun. A total of 24 dead dogs were found on the property, but that wasn’t even the worst of it. There were also 12 dead horses discovered, their carcasses rotting in the sun. According to investigators, it was suspected that most of them had been dead for some time.

A total of 24 dead dogs and 12 deceased horses were found on the property. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

“The decay on the horses ranged from completely skeletonized to partially skeletonized with skin and fur, generally indicating the deaths were not recent,” the probable cause affidavit said, Law & Crime reported. With the discovery of dozens of dead horses and dogs at the ranch that was reportedly under her control, 22-year-old Rachel Ann Sword was arrested. However, it’s worth noting that this wasn’t the first time the ranch had come under fire for alleged animal cruelty at the property.

In fact, the ranch in Westminster, Texas, about 50 miles northeast of Dallas, had been suspected of animal cruelty for quite some time with police receiving reports of alleged animal cruelty at the property at least 16 times, dating back to 2019. It’s unclear whether Sword was at the ranch at that time, but it’s worth noting that she would have been just a teen if she was. Even so, when the property owners were questioned, they told police that they thought their granddaughter had assumed the responsibility of managing the ranch.

According to jail records, Rachel Ann Sword was taken into police custody and charged with one count of cruelty to a non-livestock animal, a third-degree felony, and one count of cruelty to livestock animals — physical abuse, a state jail felony. She was booked into the Collin County Jail with her bond set at $85,000.

Although Sword admitted to police that she understood she was supposed to care for the animals, she claimed she was suffering from “depression” after her husband, who she claimed owned the animals, had recently died. He had reportedly committed suicide approximately three weeks before Sword’s arrest.

Rachel Ann Sword
Rachel Ann Sword (Photo Credit: Collin County Jail Records)

While her grandparents lived inside a house on the ranch, Sword and her daughter had reportedly been living in an RV on the property, and some of the dead dogs had reportedly been discovered in cages inside the RV, according to the affidavit. Sword said that due to the severe and debilitating depression she was suffering, she could not bring herself to feed the animals.

The sheriff’s office seemed to have little empathy for the woman and her depression. “Collin County is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all animals throughout the county, and incidents such as this are taken very seriously,” a statement from the sheriff’s office said. “The Collin County Sheriff’s Office has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the abandonment or cruelty to animals.”

Rachel Ann Sword lived in an RV on the ranch while her grandparents resided in the house on the property. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Thankfully, some animals were able to be saved. Two dogs, two horses, a cow, a bearded dragon, a snake, and two frogs that were found alive on the ranch were turned over to Animal Control personnel and taken to an animal shelter. It was unclear who assumed care of Sword’s child following her arrest.

Even though we understand the debilitating nature depression can have, we also realize that this likely was only a small contributing factor to the animal abuse that took place at the ranch. For starters, reports had been pouring in for years. In addition, the dead animals were found “in advanced states of decomposition,” according to investigators. So, while the suicide of Sword’s husband likely made things worse, it didn’t cause the initial neglect that obviously took place.

Rachel Ann Sword isn’t the only one who failed the 12 dead horses and 24 deceased dogs. The property owners shouldn’t be absolved of guilt simply because they were aging. After all, there were reportedly “skeletons everywhere,” so even a brief inspection would have indicated there was a problem, not to mention the smell. What’s more, something malodorous in the area led investigators to the discovery of a dead dog inside a cage near the grandparents’ home. So, there were plenty of warning signs that something wasn’t right.

Lest we forget, this wasn’t a first for this ranch either. Animal cruelty and abuse had long been suspected with over a dozen calls to authorities over the years — clear back to a time when Rachel Ann Sword was only a teen. So, it would seem many turned their heads until the death toll was so high and the smell so bad that it could no longer be ignored. Let this be a lesson to us all: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in the world is that good men do nothing.” Thankfully, one landscaper wasn’t about to let evil continue to triumph on this Texas ranch.