Seven innocent horses, one days from giving birth, and a week-old foal died in a raging barn fire that police believe was a homophobic attack.
Owner of the barn and horses, Brent Whitehouse, of McConnelsville, Ohio, had been keeping an eye on his pregnant mare, Love, after the animal showed signs she was about to give birth.
When he looked out of his window at the barn on Easter night Mr Whitehouse was shocked to see an orange glow coming from within.
© Whiz NewsArson attack: The remains of the barn, razed to the ground by a deadly fire that killed seven horses housed within, smoulders in McConnelsville, Ohio
© Whiz News'Who could do this?' Owner Brent Whitehouse said he could get the money back on the barn but was devastated to lose his beloved horses
'I ran out there, but the doors of my barn wouldn't open and suddenly, flames were shooting up through the roof. That barn was gone in five minutes,' he told the Zanesville Times Recorder.
The heat was so intense it caused a tractor parked inside the barn to melt.
Homophobic graffiti, which read 'fags are freaks' and 'burn in hell' could still be seen on the remains of the gutted barn's walls the next day.
Fire marshals have confirmed the blaze was arson and the scrawlings have prompted them to launch an investigation into whether a hate crime had been committed.
'The barn I can rebuild, but the bond I had with those horses can't be replaced,' Mr Whitehouse told the Recorder.
'Whoever did this had to walk right by all those horses, including the baby, and didn't care that they were killing a gentle, loving animal.'
The horses, Elvis, Barney, Floyd, Princess, Love, Bella, Ethel and week-old foal Buddy, were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mr Whitehouse said.
But the money paled in comparison to the emotional impact the attack, authorities have ruled as arson, caused.
© Whiz NewsValuable loss: The horses, Elvis, Barney, Floyd, Princess, Love, Bella, Ethel and week-old foal Buddy, who had been in the barn's stalls, were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars
© Whiz NewsHate crime: Homophobic graffiti, which read 'fags are freaks' and 'burn in hell' could still be seen daubed on the remains of the gutted barn's walls the next day
'Each one of them was so special,' Mr Whitehouse said of the horses. 'I'd come home from a long day at the office and go to the barn and be with them for hours.
'They just knew how to relax me and make me laugh.'
Mr Whitehouse, a horse trainer and breeder, and owner of an insurance company in McConnelsville, started welling up on remembering his new foal.
© Whiz NewsBlaze: The heat from the fire was so intense it melted a tractor that had been inside the barn, which was destroyed in five minutes
'He was only a week old,' Mr Whitehouse said. 'I just had him and his mother in the arena and he was coming up and smelling me and checking me out. He was cute as a button.
'I just don't understand someone wanting to kill innocent animals. It's like killing a child,' he added.
A reward of $5,000, sponsored by the Ohio FAIR Plan Underwriting Association, is being offered in the hope it will bring those who started the fire to justice.