Answers to Your 24 Questions about HiCaliber and Michelle Knuttila

MIchelle Knuttila sings about shooting horses.

By Chuck Cross

After reading your 24 Questions About HiCal I want to commend you for aiming to take a balanced look at both sides of this story.  This is a journalistic requirement that is sadly lacking in today’s shock headline news culture.  And it is important to address these questions, or rather, allow the facts to speak for themselves.
Since a few of the questions in the article are closely related, the answers to the most fundamental questions are easily found.  Please note that in some of the videos listed, Michelle is polite enough to answer them herself.
1. What did Michelle Knuttila really do – was she cruel and evil or kind and loving to horses?
After her eviction, there were scores of mutilated animals discovered on the property.  Is there some reason that an amputated horses leg, a headless chicken, or an endangered bobcat should be stuffed in a freezer next to coleslaw and Fireball whiskey?
Headless chicken found at HiCaliber.
Frozen bobcat, an endangered species, found in HiCaliber freezer with other food items.
 She practiced veterinary medicine without a degree.  Wouldn’t a kind and loving person be interested in the best possible care instead of risking hurting the animal further?
3. Did she do more harm than good?
Define ‘good’.  According to multiple volunteers that worked with her on a daily basis, the money that was raised rarely, if ever, went to the horses it was donated for.
6. Independent of whether she was an ethical, or ruthless [possibly fraudulent] horse rescuer and fundraiser, what did she do to the property of the landlord?
 The destruction of the property is well documented.
Piles of horse manure at HiCaliber
Skulls found at HiCaliber
The company that was hired to clean one of the homes had to wear full-body hazardous material suits to avoid illness because of the level of destruction.  Toilets were not flushed and filled with human feces, animals had been chained in bathrooms, cat feces had been thrown onto the roof.
7. Can she blame the destruction of the property on those who scared away donations [rightly or wrongly]?
Do you need donations to flush a toilet?  She never lost utilities or use of the well as she claimed, everything was in working order.  So how could anyone else be blamed for such damage?
9. And if she is responsible and is without assets, how will she pay for damages to the property, if it is proven in court that she caused it by her neglect and recklessness?
Maybe she can start a non-profit.  One of the troubling issues left outstanding is the missing money.  Although this woman drove a $60,000 BMW and lived rent free for 7 months courtesy of California tenant laws, a non-profit that brought in almost $1 million in donations in 2016 still has not filed their 2017 taxes (the media interest and rumors started in 2018).  There seems to quite a bit of money missing.
10. Many of the “compassionate” horse saviors seem to be unnaturally hostile to humans. I get their desire to save horses and even their anger with those who they think are abusive to horses. But do they sometimes go over the top in their anger and even hatred- as if their desire to hate is really the driving force?
The hatred and passion is palpable, but it certainly isn’t without reason.
14. Was it really her fault that she self destructed?
The County of San Diego denied Michelle disability for a previous injury, but in the process had a psychiatric evaluation done on her.  She was diagnosed with Histrionic Personality.
Interestingly, people with this disorder “may exhibit sexually provocative behavior” and “persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.”
18. Was she deliberately abusive to the people who tried to help and correct the operation, joining the category of haters, and forgetting that this was fundamentally about saving horses, not fighting with people?
Michelle named a horse after a person that she hates, then she killed it.  At the least this is a troubling way to address a critic, at the most it is a veiled threat.
19. Was Michelle fundamentally corrupt or off her rocker, so dreadfully flawed, that it was a mercy that she was closed down? 
She euthanized horses against the opinions of veterinarians, and called herself the angel of death.
She has been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses and carries a firearm.  The same firearm that she uses to kill horses.
21. Which brings us back to the fundamental question – was HiCaliber an abusive place for horses, run by an abusive woman – or was it all really a terrible misunderstanding – and the world is poorer for it being closed down. 
While trying to raise donations, Michelle ran a horse around that was having trouble walking because of an unknown hoof issue.  The horse was in great pain but she insisted.  In the same video, she also exhibits sexually provocative behavior consistent with her mental diagnosis.
Here she sings about shooting horses in a disturbing lack of concern.
23. Or is Michelle incorrigible and thank goodness this “nutcake” has been stopped?
24. In other words, is there a net gain or net loss in horse rescues with the shutdown of HiCaliber.
Is Michelle ill or misunderstood?  If this issue was simply a matter of opinion on horse training methods and medical procedures, then perhaps it would be reasonable to consider that maybe this was all just hateful bullies making some noise on the internet.  But animals have been mutilated, and buried in shallow graves and freezers.  Millions of dollars of senseless damage has been done to family homes.  And 10’s, if not 100’s, of thousands of donated dollars are missing.  This woman has been diagnosed with multiple psychiatric issues, and she carries an unregistered firearm.
  Vengeance will not bring back any horses that were euthanized or mistreated.  However, disarming this woman and keeping her away from animals would seem to be a reasonable goal considering the evidence on hand.


About the author

Frank Parlato


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  • Thanks for posting about this case. Being a resident of upstate NY, we’ve seen horse rescues turn into hoards several times. Rhe HiCaliber histrionics of Knuttila exemplify, in a cartoonesque villainous manner, the mentality so many owners of “rescues.”

  • Just want to make it clear that Chuck Cross is not me. I had nothing to do with this guest post, which I would hope is obvious given the inaccuracies.

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.

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