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Quarter Horse Trainer Found Dead

December 13, 2000

BRENHAM, Texas (AP) _ Steve Van Bebber, one of the country’s most successful quarter horse trainers, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in what officials believed was a suicide.

Van Bebber, who was 50, was the nation’s leading quarter horse trainer this year in earnings and victories. He is third on the career victory list and sixth in prize money.

Police were called Tuesday to a Best Western Motel in Brenham that Van Bebber had checked into Sunday morning. Brenham is about 90 miles east of Austin.

Motel staff members became worried when they were unable to get in contact with him, said Brenham Police Detective Michael Davis.

About 1 p.m., police entered Van Bebber’s room, which was bolted and chained from the inside. He was found in his bed, dead from a gunshot wound to the head from a revolver found at the scene. No suicide note was found, Davis said.

``Everything at the scene was consistent with a suicide,″ said Washington County Justice of the Peace Douglas Cone.

No autopsy has been ordered but toxicology tests were performed. Those results won’t be ready for several weeks, Cone said.

``I think the whole industry is shocked. One of our leaders and one of our top people in the industry for many years has fallen,″ said Keith Kleine, senior manager of race marketing for the American Quarter Horse Association, located in Amarillo.

Last year Van Bebber was honored as the association’s trainer of the year and he trained the top quarter horse in the world, Tailor Fit. This year, the horses that Van Bebber trained earned more than $2.2 million and won 143 of their 679 races.

Van Bebber’s horses rank third in races won with 1,847 victories out of 9,269 starts. His horses’ total earnings of more than $9.7 million ranks him sixth overall.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Van Bebber is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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