An Erath County rancher was recently reunited with six head of cattle after an associate was caught allegedly attempting to unload the stolen stock at the Lampasas Cattle Auction. Now, an area resident has been charged with theft of livestock, less than 10 head - a third degree felony.
Travis Ray Turley, 37, turned himself in to the Erath County Jail last Friday, following a fast-paced investigation and the rancher’s ability to identify his herd on sight alone.
According to Special Ranger H.D. Brittain with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), the rancher realized he was six head short last Wednesday and contacted the Erath County Sheriff’s Office. The case was referred to the TSCRA.
“When the rancher went to check his cattle, they were not in the pasture,” Brittain said. “Then when he checked the pens, he could see the cattle had been there.”
Once he tracked his herd to another area on the ranch, a quick count showed six head, cows and calves, were missing. Further inspection at the property, located north of Dublin on US Highway 377, showed that no fences had been cut to gain entry to the ranch. The entrance to the property was secured by a combination lock.
“The owner said only three people knew the combination,” Brittain said. “It just so happened the Lampasas Cattle Auction’s sale was that evening, so we called (the auction barn) to see if any of those three people had put their name on the sale list. One of the three combination holders had taken six head to the sale.”
Brittain said the cattle had not been branded, but the rancher was able to give a detailed description of the missing cattle. A representative at the sale was able to confirm similar livestock were at the barn.
The rancher went to Lampasas and quickly pointed out his hijacked herd, which was compared to the sale list. Each of the identified bovine were listed under Turley’s name.
Brittan went to the sale with the rancher Thursday and loaded up the livestock. When they returned to Erath County and unloaded the cattle, the calves went directly to their mothers.
Brittain said the identification by the rancher, the fact that Turley had access to the property and his attempt to cash in on the theft, was all the Ranger needed to charge the rustler with cattle theft.
Turley was released from jail after posting a $5,000 bond. If convicted, he faces two to 10 years behind bars and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Brittain advises ranchers to brand their livestock for easy identification and also report suspected theft to the local sheriff’s office, who will refer the case to TSCRA.