The back and forth of horse rescue: ‘BB’ condemns Laura Bell’s horse rescue operation

The world of horse rescue is a rough and tumble world – comprised it seems largely of women.  I was asked to look into purported abuses by Michelle Knutilla of HiCaliber Horse Rescue in San Deigo County. I am doing some research on it now and plan to publish some preliminary findings soon.

Laura Bell – who also evidently is a horse rescuer and operates Starlight Sanctuary – and wrote a book on the topic of rescue and its abuses – wrote to Frank Report to criticize Knutilla.  I published it – as is my policy to air all sides of an issue.

This was followed up by several comments criticizing Bell – namely that she was guilty of neglecting the horses she was pledged to rescue.

In response, Bell rebutted the allegations against herself.

In turn, someone using the moniker MN, who claims her real name is Barbara Benson, was blunt about Bell.  She commented:

“Dear Laura Bell,
“I have no issue using my real name.  Barbara Benson aka MN aka Hollywood Mole aka Blue Bottle lady (I know you read Shedrow, so, that is who I am).  Small minded, nasty and petty?
Alright then.
“Maybe you and Frank should do their homework.
“See, Laura, one thing I am not (but you are and it is documented), is a horse abuser.
“You and your lovely husband should crawl back under the rock you came from, as you have no clue to who I am and what I do.  I do know who you are though. 
“Teaming up with you is embarrassing at best and all credibility on this page is just gone, if there ever was any.”


Naturally Laura Bell responded. And I do think it is fascinating to read the back and forth, fraught with hostility. Still, in the anger, kernels of truth may emerge on what really happens in the horse rescue field and those who are engaged in it for love, for profit or as a hobby.

Laura Bell wrote in response to MN, addressing her as Barbara [Benson]:

“OK Barbara, are you really one of the true believer followers who helped enable Michelle [Knutilla’s] illegal killing via bullet of over 200 horses? Nothing to be proud of Barbie when groupie enablers facilitated so many innocent horses dying while Michelle & company were living the high life on the donor dollars.

“And then there’s their disappearing of 100s more horses that were supposed to be ‘safe in rescue’. Do you have any idea, or even care where horses have disappeared to since late 2013? I know MANY people who have been asking questions about that for over 5 years, but Michelle could always rely on people like you to run interference for her (you’re still doing it, which is really twisted in my opinion). I understand why you’re feeling guilty because you were snookered and, like many people, you just don’t want to admit you were used.

“And where is it ‘documented’ that I’m an abuser? In your ignorant 8th grader mind? Or let me guess, Michelle told you. You’ll be able to bring factual evidence with you when I see you, correct? Great! LOL

“And contrary to spoiled, rich enablers, we’ve continued to work in order to care for many horses that the likes of Hi Caliber followers would have thought it was just dandy for Michelle to execute with a bullet (or two, or…..), so I’ll have to pass on the crawling under a rock-thing sweetie. See you soon. LOL.”


Now in response to Bell, someone, using the moniker BB [Barbara Benson?] replied to Laura Bell:.

“You are adorable, dear Laura.  Cute. Really.

“Also. For you. Barbara. I don’t think you know me well enough to have pet names for me.

“The starvation, exploitation and scam operation you and your husband ran is well documented.
I mean. Everyone in advocacy has heard of Starlight. Wasn’t really much of a sanctuary for the horses. I am happy to provide links for you. Although I am sure you don’t need them.

“Wonder if your lawyer is out of prison by now? What was it again? Drug charges ? I am too lazy to google.

“I also don’t engage with the deranged, like yourself. So don’t bother to reply.  I mean you can, but I am done. With you and your disillusions.

“I am going to answer some of your burning questions:  I sure as hell know what happened to the horses. It is happening in my backyard. Not yours. Where exactly are you hiding these days?

“If you for one second think, I donated or got ‘snookered’ in, you are a bigger moron, than I thought.
But hey. Always something to learn.

“And just between you and I, I’ll tell you a secret:  I might have had a hand in getting horses out of there and into safe homes.  Might. You know. Maybe. Maybe not.

“So. Laura. Take your crayons and go back into your sandbox. Looks like Frank is willing to play with you. Good luck with your book sales.”


This is a horse purportedly owned by Laura Bell. The Starlight Sanctuary is run and operated by Laura Bell and Rick Bell, in Silver Springs Nevada.

Setting the Record Straight on Starlight Sanctuary

Whether the horse was rescued in this condition or fell into neglect is not known.


About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Thank you Barb, your performance exceeded even my expectations. See you in the next year. LOL Also, our defense attorney wasn’t on drugs, never in jail, or prison, so why are you defaming them? Maybe you should get your timeline of occurrences and events in order instead of being purposely vague about a complex chain of events. The entire factual story is in the last chapter of the book, you’d be well served to read it so you stop digging yourself a deeper hole. I’m thinking you stupidly gave several thousand dollars to michelle & company for their defense, but once again, your one-off vagueness and childish potshots are designed to enflame others who are too lazy to look for and deal in facts and truth. In my opinion, so many horses were executed because of your type of careless, thoughtless behavior, it really is tragic.

    A bit of advice going forward: make sure you gather up all of the vet reports and other documentation for our horses so you have them when I see you. Kind of hard to do that when you never saw our horses, don’t know their names, their histories, their ages, pretty much nothing about those horses. Oh, you were also never even at our property, correct? So let’s see, who’s photos, videos, and writings are you using? That’s right, Michelle’s! LOL A woman I only *maybe* met 3 times in person at the feedlot when she was there to transport feedlot horses (to this day I’ve never seen, let alone met Romney in person), who was also only at my fishbowl property one time for *maybe* an hour. Interesting fact: all of our horses were easily viewable for anyone to see from all 4 sides of our unfenced property that didn’t have trees (we didn’t live in the great piney woods, surrounded by trees blocking views of horses, and we actually had sick horses next to a well traveled road). And gee, if she was so concerned about what she “found” she could have called me to come home to find out what was happening and express her concerns (hint: if she had done that she wouldn’t have been able to stage photos and videos and instead I would have walked her around while we talked, videoing our conversation, explaining the illnesses we’d been dealing with for months that she already knew about, histories on other horses, dangerous behavioral issues on many of our gorgeous healthy horses (horses she would have thrown down some grain and shot while they were eating…..not nice seeing as people like us are happy to care for them), etc. She could have called animal control (she didn’t), or the sheriff (she didn’t), etc. But no, she couldn’t get out of there fast enough, after theatrically calling my name when she KNEW no one was home because I told her that when we talked on the phone that morning. Things became crystal clear the next day when michelle and romney attempted blackmail on us in a PM wanting to cherry pick through our 50 healthy horses and would leave “the sanctuary type horses” (the acutely and chronically ill) with us because “they should stay with you Laura”. HUH? On her videos she states-paraphrasing- “They’re all like this (skinny)” as she’s making sure to hold her camera down so as not to show the array of healthy horses, 22 troughs with water in them, etc. Barbara, you and many others were snookered, but unlike many that deciding to be fair and look deeper, you’re showing your true colors (I wish it weren’t so because you actually sound like a caring person with the work you put in at the Ontario auction and elsewhere) and continue to attack my family.

    So before you really think showing staged photos and videos that michelle took of 15-20 acutely or chronically ill horses that she knew nothing about other than what I had told romney about trying for several months to treat sick horses brought home from the feedlot that managed to infect some of our long-term residents is going to prove your point, you of all people should read our book and maybe than you’ll see how you’re still being used by michelle and romney.
    Suffice to say that we proved to authorities that mattered that instead of killing horses to get them off our feed bill and dispose of them to keep the likes of people like you from attacking us (which you’re still engaging in nearly 5 1/2 YEARS after the fact), we chose to spend our own money, as we always have for 25 years at this point, to care for them. We didn’t shoot them and we also didn’t ask our vet to do it, because the horses needed help and wanted to live.
    I pray for your sake Barbara that if you get old, are diseased, are skinny, lame, etc that you will have people to help you instead of them wanting you to “hurry up and die” because you’re a money-pit of need and care, and also a ball and chain no one wants to take care of. That does happen to people (I volunteered at a senior center and care facility and it was heartbreaking to watch), but happens to animals by the hundreds of thousands/millions annually because many/most people can’t or won’t take care of animals, especially big eating horses, that have no purpose, or can’t perform anymore (as Hitler’s T4 Euthanasia Program stated, they are “unworthy of living”).
    We’ve always been a place for the past 25 years (long before we filed as a nonprofit in 2011. I hope you didn’t and don’t think that we just began rescuing in 2011 and/or from the feedlot in October 2012 because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s all in the last chapter of our book, you really should read it and you’d see how you’re still being used by hucksters) that horses with behavioral and/or physical-health issues could come to where they’d have friends and love and we don’t kill them just because we don’t want to spend our hard earned money on them. Even the most dangerous horses just need time to become more peaceful once they know we place no expectations of performance on them. We care for them the rest of their lives because in the wrong hands they may revert, hurt or kill someone, and disappear into the slaughter pipeline. But now, over 5 years later, we still get attacked by uninformed people like you that are still doing michelle and romney’s dirty work.
    So rather than being attacked again, and as heartbreaking as it is for us, we don’t take horses with chronic, progressive health issues anymore, and they often go through one of the weekly kill sales, or are sold directly to the feedlot. Their end is the same via either type of sale/disposal: inhumane, horrific commercial slaughter in Canada at the end of a chain. I feel bad about it everyday, especially when I’ve just told someone “no, I’m sorry, in the past we would have taken your old gelding in, but we don’t anymore because we’ll get attacked for having a horse with his condition”.

    So if you really are compassionate Barbara, and also a horse lover, maybe you can dwell on the fact regarding why michelle only posted the minority of our horses we had at the time (15-20) that were acutely and/or chronically ill/geriatric, while not showing the 50 that were “fat and happy’s” (Romney wrote that) that they thought they’d cherry pick through, leaving us with the ill/old ones that weren’t useable/adoptable. When I said “no, I’m calling animal control out here first thing Monday morning” (written on Saturday) the proverbial shit hit the fan and the social media mob attacks began that nearly destroyed our lives. People like you just keep the attacks and defamation going, but at least we never decided we’d simply execute horses as your friends michelle and romney did while pocketing millions of dollars in donations ear marked for caring for them.
    Hopefully you’ll be introspective and will figure out why you’re allowing yourself to continue to be used by michelle, romney, and even others on the other side of the fence from them.
    I’m happy to speak to you on the phone as I have with many other people, but I understand if you’re stuck in your position because it’s hard admitting you were/are being used.

      • Surely you can see that the point of that Seinfeld episode was to show how stupid men could be. Elaine tells several men, including police, that a women is committing crimes against her, and the men dont even care.

        In this horse fight situation, I couldn’t even begin to guess at who is right and who is wrong. But I think it’s sad that horses are being killed as a scam by people who claim to be horse lovers…

        As I mentioned before, I haven’t had good experiences with animal rescue groups, so I tend to not get involved with those groups, but I think there are some rescue groups who do some good work.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083


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