Garrett Rice (Source Stephens County Sheriff's Office)
All of Dan Wright's cattle are branded, which is how they were alerted to the theft. (Source KSWO)
LOCO, OK (KSWO) -Authorities say the man responsible for stealing 11 heads of cattle from a Stephens County rancher is behind bars.
Investigators with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry say Garrett Rice was arrested Wednesday and is being held at the Stephens County Jail. Authorities say he admitted to stealing livestock from JC Cattle Company in Loco, Oklahoma, and selling them in Wichita Falls August 2015.
Dan Wright, the cattle owner, says Rice had been working for him for around six months when this happened. Wright says he feels betrayed, especially after he realized how Rice took advantage of his generosity to pull off the theft.
"I don't know why he done it, I guess he needed some money," Wright said.
Wright said he knew Rice did odds and ends jobs around town, and seemed to be a friendly guy. On the day before Wright's livestock was stolen, he says Rice came by his house and asked to borrow his welder to work on his trailer. The same trailer Rice used to steal the cattle.
"I kind of liked the kid. And I was just trying to help him out. That's what I say, you can't help them out too much I guess," Wright said.
Investigators say Rice spent an entire night shuttling 11 of Wright's cattle from Loco to the sale barn in Wichita Falls, Texas. The next day, he cashed in to the tune of $16,000 and never returned to Stephens County.
Workers at the sale barn notified the state agriculture department about the sale, since the cattle were branded, and an AG agent told Wright what had happened. They were able to return all but three of the stolen cattle to Wright.
"One bull they sent to slaughter and there were a couple of calves sent to Corpus Christi. Of course we didn't get them because we didn't want to drive all the way down there," Wright said.
Wright did get the money for those animals, and even says he has forgiven Rice.
"No resentment. I wish he wouldn't have done it, but he did and we can't help that," Wright said.
As for advice for other cattle ranchers.
"Well, like I say, you better keep an eye on all of them," Wright said.
There were some snags over the past five months to bring Rice to justice because of a backlog of cases. But, they tracked Rice down in Carter County, just east of Stephens County, through Facebook the day after the crime. Agents kept tabs on him ever since, waiting for prosecutors to clear a backlog of cases. They finally got the arrest warrant Tuesday and took him into custody Wednesday.