Alleged horse thief pleads guilty to cattle theft
for Texarkana Gazette
William Webster Hamilton, 39, involved in the horse thefts at Southern Arkansas University, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Little River County Circuit Court to stealing cattle in Ogden, AR, valued at $10,500.
The plea agreement requires Hamilton to testify against co-defendant Wendi Nicole Cox regarding the theft of the cattle.
Hamilton was sentenced to 10 years in prison with five years suspended. He will also be required to pay court costs of $220 and restitution of $10,500 “jointly and severally” with Cox and George Berish III, 18, of Ashdown.
He entered his guilty plea before 9th Circuit Court Judge Charles Yeargan.
Hamilton is represented by Ashdown attorney Mickey Buchanan.
“It was a good offer all the way around. He knew other people would testify against him and it was good deal,” Buchanan said.
Berish, Hamilton and Cox allegedly stole 15 heifers valued at $10,500 from an Ogden ranch, according to an arrest affidavit prepared by Arkansas State Police Special Agent Hays McWhirter.
Berish pleaded guilty Nov. 13 before Yeargan for the Ogden cattle theft.
Berish was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and two years were suspended.
The cattle theft was discovered Oct. 26, 2011, when Kenneth Matheson returned to his ranch and found the gate open and the lock gone along with the 15 head of cattle.
It was June 2012 before law enforcement agencies received a tip about the missing cattle. The heifers had been sold at the Idabel Stockyards by Hamilton and Berish, according to an informant.
The Ogden cattle theft investigation proceeded when McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Whit Kent was able to get copies of a check issued to Berish for $4,139.09 for the sale of seven heifers at the stockyards. Kent also was able to get a check issued to Hamilton for $4,587.10 as payment for selling eight heifers.
In an interview with McWhirter, Hamilton admitted to helping steal the cows and selling them.
Hamilton allegedly said after he received a call from Berish about the location of the cows, Hamilton called Cox, according to the affidavit. Cox reportedly was Hamilton’s girlfriend at the time.
According to the affidavit, Cox and a juvenile met Hamilton in Haworth, OK, and rode with him to Ashdown to pick up Berish. All four then traveled to Ogden to get the cows and haul them to the Idabel sale barn.
Hamilton and Cox are also charged with felony counts of cruelty to animals and possession of stolen property in the theft of five horses Nov. 3, 2011, from SAU stables in Magnolia, AR.
Berish is also charged with six felony counts of theft for stealing the SAU horses, trailer and tack. The combined value of the horses and equipment was listed at $200,000.
Cox is the mother of Jacie Jackson, who was arrested Dec. 5 on six charges in the theft of five SAU horses, a trailer and equipment.
Four of the horses were found in a clear-cut in McCurtain County, OK. The animals were malnourished and dehydrated. The fifth horse, Credit Card, was found dead Nov. 25, 2011, near Haworth. The horse was valued at $20,000.
Trial dates for Cox to face the cattle theft charges were rescheduled.
A pretrial hearing will be Mar. 12, with a trial date of Mar. 25.
–reprinted with permission from the Texarkana Gazette
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