A man in Oklahoma who stole from a rancher who had passed away has been sentenced to serve five years in prison.
William Eugene Smith, 53 of Woodward pled no contest on June 21 to four felony charges. The charges include one count of felony unauthorized use of a vehicle and three counts of felony grand larceny.
The investigation was led by Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Special Ranger Ben Eggleston and began in June 2017. At the time an unknown suspect or suspects burglarized the estate of the late Donnie Johnson in Ellis County. A number of items were reported to have been stolen from the property leading to TSCRA Special Rangers and the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office taking on the case.
A reward was then issued by TSCRA’s anti-theft initiative “Operation Cow Thief,” seeking information related to the theft. Soon after the reward was posted, Special Ranger Eggleston was contacted by an informant who had a lead on a suspect. This led to the location of a pickup truck and gooseneck stock trailer that had been stolen from the estate. The trailer and pickup were recovered and Smith was identified as the primary suspect.
More stolen items were recovered during the investigation and Smith was arrested on Aug. 18, 2017 by Eggleston and Ellis County Undersheriff Monty Martin. Smith was then booked into the Ellis County Jail where he awaited trial which finally occurred this year in June.
In the sentencing Smith was charged to 15 years in state prison on each count. Those sentences will run concurrently and all but the first five years will be suspended, resulting in five years of prison time for Smith.
TSCRA and Eggleston would like to thank everyone involved in the case, especially Ellis County Undersheriff Monty Martin, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Agent Paul Cornett, the Woodward County Sheriff’s Office and all those in the public who came forward with information.