Lockhart man arrested on cattle theft charge
LPR Staff Report
A Lockhart man was arrested last month for reportedly stealing his neighbor’s cattle.
Matt Morales is currently free on $35,000 bail following his Feb. 24 arrest on a charge of second-degree felony theft of livestock from an elderly person.
Morales will be tried in Caldwell County, a spokesperson for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association said last week. No court date has been set.
The arrest is the result of an investigation by TSCRA Special Ranger Kenny Murchison.
Murchison was contacted on Feb. 15 by a Caldwell County rancher who said he was missing five large calves, according to the ranger’s report.
Three disappeared that morning, and two had gone missing several weeks prior.
The rancher also said a white pickup truck with a blue horse trailer was seen leaving a neighboring property, headed south. Further inspection revealed that a fence near the neighbor’s cattle pens had been cut and cattle feed was left on the ground that may have been used to bait the cattle into the pens, according to reports.
Murchison immediately alerted livestock auction markets and TSCRA market inspectors to be on the lookout for cattle or a vehicle matching the description provided by the victim. He also passed along the identity of the individual living on the neighboring property, Matt Morales.
The following day Murchison spoke to the Cuero Livestock Auction and learned that Morales, using the name Jacob Morales, had sold three large calves at the auction the day before, and two similar calves on Feb. 1. They also confirmed that he was driving a white pickup with a blue two-horse trailer.
In an interview, Morales later admitted to taking the cattle to the Cuero auction, TSCRA officials said.
Morales was arrested on a warrant for second-degree felony theft of livestock from an elderly. The charge, usually a third-degree felony, was enhanced because of the age of the victim.
Morales was booked into the Caldwell County Jail and later released on a $35,000 bond. If convicted, he could face 2-20 years in prison as well as restitution and fines of up to $10,000.
“This case is an outstanding example of why it is so important for cattle producers to count their cattle and inspect their fences regularly,” said Murchison. “The timely and accurate information provided by the victim was essential in quickly solving this case.”
Murchison thanked the Cuero Livestock Auction, Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, Caldwell County District Attorney’s Office and fellow TSCRA Special Ranger Gary Baros for their assistance on the case.
According to the TSCRA, cattle theft remains prevalent in Texas. In 2017, TSCRA special rangers investigated 720 cases involving reports of theft of both cattle and farm and ranch equipment. More than $9 million worth of property has been recovered.