Onalaska man gets 8 years for cattle theft

LIVINGSTON, TX (PRESS RELEASE) - On July 24, 2008, a neighbor observed buzzards circling over property near Onalaska owned by Bobby Gokey, Jr.  Being a good neighbor, the man went to see if something was wrong.  It was.

The neighbor saw three dead cattle and noticed that several of Gokey's cattle appeared to be missing.  The neighbor called Gokey and told him what he had seen.  Gokey immediately contacted the Polk County Sheriff's Office.  Deputy Mike Nettles responded to the property and met Gokey.  Once there Gokey discovered fifty-five head of cattle, worth more than $50,000.00 had been stolen.  The three dead cattle discovered by the neighbor had been penned by the thief and left without access to water.  In the heat of the summer the cattle died of dehydration.  With the assistance of Texas Ranger Ron Duff, law enforcement learned the Michael Terry had been seen near Gokey's property hauling a cattle trailer.  Investigators traveled to Trinity County to speak with Terry.  When they arrived at Terry's residence near Groveton, officers observed several head of cattle that matched the description of the cattle stolen from Gokey.  Michael Terry was not at the residence, but was located by Polk County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Jason Paske at his home in Onalaska.  When Paske arrived at the home he saw a twenty-four foot gooseneck cattle trailer attached to Terry's truck in the driveway.  When the officer went to the door Terry answered and told the officer he had borrowed the trailer from a friend.  Paske ran the license plate and the VIN of the trailer and discovered it had been stolen from Burkhalter Trailer Sales.  Terry was arrested for the theft of the trailer.

When law enforcement searched the trailer they found cattle ear tags matching the tags used by Gokey to identify his cattle.  In addition, a homemade gate matching a cattle chute on Gokey's property was found in the trailer.  A search of Terry's residence yielded a receipt from Jordan Cattle Auction in San Saba County showing Terry had sold cattle there within days of the theft of Gokey's cattle.  Rangers with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser's Association contacted Jordan Cattle Auction and learned the cattle sold by Terry were branded with same brand as the cattle that had been stolen from Gokey.  Based on the overwhelming evidence Captain Rickie Childers of the Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested Terry for felony theft of the cattle, felony theft of the trailer and three counts of animal cruelty for the dead cattle he penned and left without access to water.

On Monday, February 8, 2010, a jury was selected to hear the evidence and decide if Michael Terry was guilty of cattle and trailer theft in Judge Elizabeth Coker's court.  Testimony began that afternoon when Assistant District Attorney Kaycee Jones called ten witnesses to testify.  Before testimony resumed on Tuesday, February 9, the defendant asked if he could plead guilty in return for an eight year sentence in prison.  After discussing it with the victim, prosecutors agreed to the plea.  Terry pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the cattle theft and two years in State Jail for the stolen trailer.  Terry was facing a maximum sentence of ten years in prison for cattle theft and received the maximum sentence allowed for the trailer theft.  "While most think that cattle rustling is a thing of the past, Texans lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to rustlers.  Thanks to the hard work of the Polk County Sheriff's Office, Texas Rangers and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association Rangers this thief is behind bars where he belongs", said Assistant District Attorney Kaycee Jones.