The charges were the result of an investigation led by Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Special Ranger Larry Hand. Hand was assisted in the investigation by TSCRA Special Ranger Jimmy Dickson as well as the Smith County Sheriff’s Office.
The saga began in October 2016, when three cows were reported stolen from a ranch in eastern Smith County. TSCRA Special Rangers quickly located two of the stolen animals, which had been sold at a local livestock auction. The seller was identified as Ford. Hand also recovered a feed sack at the crime scene that he traced to an Arp, Texas feed store. The feed store was able to provide an invoice that further linked Ford to the crime. It was also noted that Ford had only purchased equine feed and supplies from the store prior to purchasing the one unique bag of cattle feed shortly before the theft. It is believed he used the feed to entice the cattle and facilitate their removal from the pasture.
With substantial evidence connecting Ford to the theft, a felony arrest warrant was issued by a Smith County judge. Ford was arrested by the Kilgore Police Department on Feb. 24, 2017 and later transferred to the Smith County Jail where he was arraigned on March 2, 2017. Ford was subsequently convicted of theft of livestock less than $150,000 by a Smith County jury on May 3, 2018. He remained in custody on a $300,000 bond until today’s sentencing.
Today, Judge Kerry L. Russell handed down a sentence of 12 years in prison and more than $4,000 in restitution to the victims. The punishment was enhanced to a second-degree felony due to Ford’s prior felony convictions. Ford was remanded to the custody of the Texas Department of Corrections and will receive credit for time served.
“I am extremely grateful for the commitment and dedication of local law enforcement, the skillful presentation of evidence by the felony prosecutors and all those responsible for bringing this case to a close, including the state’s witnesses and jurors,” said Hand. “The sentence handed down today sends a clear message to the bad guys that cattle theft will not be tolerated by this community.”
Hand added that one or two additional suspects are believed to be involved with theft, but authorities have not yet obtained enough evidence to bring charges. Anyone with information that could aid in further convictions is urged to call the TSCRA Operation Cow Thief hotline at (888) 830-2333 or Special Ranger Larry Hand at (903) 592-5252. All information is kept confidential and tips may be provided anonymously.
On behalf of all cattle raisers, TSCRA would like to thank Special Ranger Larry Hand, Special Ranger Jimmy Dickson, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Kilgore Police Department, Smith County District Attorney’s Office, especially prosecutors Richard Vance and Heath Chamness, Judge Kerry L. Russell and all those in the community that came forward to provide valuable evidence.