A couple of men were arrested this month and accused of stealing three cows, after a complicated investigation involving a special ranger and two deputies in far East Texas.
To add to the overall strangeness of the case, one of the suspects was eventually found passed out in a pickup in the middle of a public road with the engine running.
It started Oct. 30, when the victim of the theft noticed that three cattle were missing from a pasture he leases in Shelby County, which is on the Louisiana state line.
He shared this information with a cattle raisers association inspector, Pat McGuigan, who told him to file a report with the sheriff’s office, according to a news release from the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
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TSCRA Special Ranger Larry Hand got on the case and stayed in touch through the weekend with McGuigan as well as another inspector, Mike Witcher.
They actually remembered the cattle in question, which had gone through the Nacogdoches Livestock Exchange on Oct. 29, because two of them were branded and went through the auction barn.
Hand interviewed auction employees who noticed that the two sellers — Christopher Lance Askew, 30, and Derrek Monroe Hughes, 25 — had given inconsistent statements, which they documented.
Sheriff’s investigators D.J. Dickerson and Kevin Windham were also on the case, and they helped gather local “intelligence,” the release says, while Hand worked neighboring counties.
“When cattle are loaded onto a trailer they can go nearly anywhere and we go wherever the trail goes,” Hand said in an interview. “And it’s rare for a cattle theft case to involve just one or two counties.”
Eventually, they gathered enough information to issue an arrest warrant for Askew on Nov. 4.
Someone called that same day and tipped them to Askew’s location. They found him “passed out behind the wheel of a pickup in the middle of a public road with the engine running,” the release says.
However, he resisted arrest and was taken into custody, accused of felony theft of livestock, felony driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest, obstruction of a passageway and four counts of felony and misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine, codeine, PCP and marijuana.
An arrest warrant was later issued for Hughes as more evidence was collected, and he was placed on the local Crimestoppers list. Hughes turned himself in Nov. 13.
He has been released from the Shelby County Jail, where his bond was set at $10,000. Askew also was jailed and released, with bond set at $165,000.
Hand worked with the victim to identify the cattle, and the two that went through the barn were returned.
Laramie Adams, spokesman for the TSCRA, said the whereabouts of the third cow are unknown.
“It’s harder if they’re not branded,” Adams said. “That’s what all our special rangers always stress is the importance of branding.”