Movie News & Reviews

Movie company has interest in Lexington 'horse whisperer' who is behind bars

Wesley Keith Richie, 51, of Lexington, shown in a mug shot on the Boyle County Detention Center's website.
Wesley Keith Richie, 51, of Lexington, shown in a mug shot on the Boyle County Detention Center's website.

HARRODSBURG — A movie company has expressed interest in doing a film about his tenderness with horses, but Wesley Keith Richie of Lexington isn't doing interviews.

That's because he's sitting in the Boyle County jail awaiting possible indictment on a felony charge of driving under the influence.

In February, Condé Nast Entertainment Group announced it had hired a screenwriter for a movie based on a 2002 GQ magazine article about Richie.

That article detailed how Richie worked with retired Thoroughbreds at Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington and "found salvation through the broken down progeny of Triple Crown winner Affirmed," according to the Condé Nast release in February.

But now, following an arrest in May, Richie, 51, faces possible indictment by a Mercer County grand jury. That comes on the heels of three other DUI arrests in 2012 and this year in Fayette County, according to court records.

Richie also was accused of DUI in 1998, when he was charged with manslaughter in the death of Amish carpenter Abram Stoltzfus, 69, of Pembroke in Christian County. Stoltzfus was killed when his buggy was struck at night by an automobile driven by Richie, who then lived in Madisonville.

The collision sliced the buggy in half. Three passengers — Stoltzfus' wife, daughter and son-in-law — spent two days in the hospital.

Richie was charged with second-degree manslaughter, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and not having insurance. (Mattie Stoltzfus, wife of Abram, later said she forgave Richie.)

Richie served part of his time on an amended charge of reckless homicide at Blackburn, where he worked with retired Thoroughbred horses. Since 1999, the prison has participated in a national program that saves horses from the slaughterhouse and puts them up for adoption. It was through that program that Richie became something of a "horse whisperer," which was the title of the June 2002 GQ article by Robert Draper.

(News stories noted that Condé Nast's movie will need another title so it won't be confused with the 1998 Robert Redford movie The Horse Whisperer.)

The article tells how Richie nursed to health a chestnut gelding named Affirmed and Ready, a grandson of Affirmed, the last horse to win the Thoroughbred Triple Crown. But Richie insists in the article that "Ready," as he called him, was the real healer.

"All my energy and focus was on Ready," Richie told Draper. "I read somewhere that horses get lonely and depressed like humans. And so I thought, I've got the time — I ain't going nowhere. It would be 10 or 15 degrees. I'd lie up against him, rub his head and make sure he knew somebody cared about him. It gave me purpose."

A Condé Nast spokeswoman had no comment in regard to Richie's more recent incarceration, and said the movie based on his life "is currently in the development stage only."

"Since it's in the development stages, they're likely working off the old article now and not anything that's happened more recently," Emily Lowe Mailaender, the spokeswoman for Condé Nast Entertainment, wrote in an email.

Richie declined a reporter's request for an interview at the Boyle jail, which houses inmates charged in neighboring Mercer County.

Records with the state Department of Corrections show that Richie has been in and out of jails and state prisons since 1983. He was paroled in 2003 after serving time on the reckless homicide in Christian County. He violated the parole in 2004, was discharged in 2006, returned to incarceration to serve time on other felony charges in 2007, and then was paroled again in 2011.

According to a report by a Kentucky State Police trooper, Richie was stopped May 11 after the Dodge Dakota he was driving went through the barriers of a car show on Harrodsburg's Main Street.

The trooper wrote that Richie had watery eyes and had trouble standing once he got out of the truck. Richie "swayed while walking and was very unsteady on his feet," the trooper noted.

Richie also admitted that he had been drinking, and he failed field sobriety tests, the report says.

A fourth offense DUI within five years is a felony punishable by one to five years in prison. It carries a minimum jail sentence of 120 days without probation, one year of treatment for alcohol abuse and a five-year license suspension.

Mercer District Judge Jeff Dotson ordered the pretrial suspension of Richie's license on May 21. He found probable cause to send Richie's case to a Mercer County grand jury, which meets next on Wednesday.

Richie told police he was employed by Patchen Wilkes Farm in Lexington, but farm owner Warren Rosenthal said Richie was employed there only briefly.

Richie was charged in Fayette County with driving under the influence on Jan. 2. and March 25, 2012, and on May 9, 2013. The last Fayette arrest happened a week after his discharge from a halfway house in Louisville, and two days before the subsequent DUI arrest in Harrodsburg.

In the GQ article, Richie is quoted as saying, "I know this. I'm gonna get out. I may be a dishwasher somewhere. So long as I'm productive. But this is what I want to do. Trust me with a horse. Just one horse. My calling is to take care of them and protect them."

The article later notes that Richie "had much to learn about being a hired hand. ... He would be yanked from the horse program for repeatedly ignoring orders. The punishment, though temporary, carried a warning: Grow up now or grow old in prison."