"Everybody who's ever missed anything is calling to try and get their stuff," said Scott Williamson, field inspector for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
Roddy Dean Pippen, 20, of Odell, Texas, was initially charged with theft over $1,500 but under $20,000 after his arrest Sunday, Aug. 8. He was nabbed by Wilbarger County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Larry Lee about 3:30 a.m. as he pulled a trailer with eight head of stolen cattle on U.S. Highway 283 north of Vernon.
A Vernon couple -- Terry Lynn Weaver, 47, and Cathy Lavonna Weaver, 46, were arrested the following Thursday and charged with the same offense, accused of concealing stolen property. The two were released after posting $15,000 bonds each.
The young Pippen is facing the possibility of 20 years in the penitentiary in Texas for alleged thefts of livestock and miscellaneous ranch property in Hardeman, Wilbarger, Wichita, Baylor, Palo Pinto, Wise and Erath counties, Williamson said, and may be looking at seven charges in Oklahoma related to thefts in Jackson, Harmon and Tillman counties. "There will be many more charges to come."
The current investigation, Williamson said, shows about six more co-conspirators.
Williamson lists the rustling ring's suspected thefts as follows: 13 saddles, 10 trailers, 25 cattle thefts (more than 150 total head), numerous burglaries and thefts. The overall estimated value of the thefts is in the ballpark of $125,000, he said.
A Jackson County resident had 12 yearlings -- about $8,000 to $9,000 worth of bovine -- rustled this spring, Williamson said, and Pippen is thought to have been the culprit.
The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association was formed in 1877 to combat livestock theft on the trail drive north. Today it is a grassroots organization made up of cattle producers and operators located primarily in Texas and Oklahoma.
The association is supported by its membership and receives no state funding. Its law enforcement division of 31 field inspectors, who are commissioned as Special Rangers by the Texas Department of Public Safety and/or the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, is charged with recovery of stolen livestock and equipment and apprehension of thieves.
Williamson, 41, is commissioned by both Texas and Oklahoma. He is the regional supervisor over 68 counties and personally covers 13 Texas counties and two Oklahoma counties -- Jackson and Harmon. "I put about 4,000 miles a month on my pickup," he said.
A graduate of Abilene Christian University, Williamson holds a degree in range and pasture management and was a deputy with the Jones County Sheriff's Department from 1989 to 1995.
The field inspectors, he explained, work closely with local authorities. "You gotta get everybody to help that you can."
So ... through their perseverance, about six months ago Pippen's name came into the equation surrounding a large number of reported thefts of cattle, trailers and ranch property during the past two years, Williamson said.
The rangers passed on Pippen's name to the Wilbarger Sheriff's Department, he said, with a heads-up to keep an eye out for vehicles carrying cattle.
The call that broke the ring came in from a concerned citizen early on the morning of Aug. 8, a Sunday. "Without the concerned citizen actively getting involved, we may very well have not had anything with this case," Wiliamson said.
The victim of the thefts, a member of the cattle raisers association from Hardeman -- called the Hardeman County Sheriff's Department about 8 a.m. that Sunday, after he realized the cattle were missing. The Sheriff's Office notified Williamson, who was in Vernon busy with post-arrest paperwork. Pippen was already in custody.
Special agents H.D. Brittain of Weatherford, Texas, and Ken Miniard of Graham, Texas, aided in the investigation.
Williamson asks that anybody with information call him at (940) 889-2269 or (940) 889-3333. For information about the cattle raisers association, contact Williamson or visit the group's Web site: www.texascattleraisers.org