Case Snapshot
Case ID: 18977
Classification: Theft, Shooting, Mutilation/Torture
Animal: horse
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Prosecutor(s): David Butler
Defense(s): Michael Lusk
Judge(s): Larry Chandler

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Thursday, Nov 3, 2011

County: Columbia

Charges: Felony CTA, Felony Non-CTA
Disposition: Alleged

» Jaci Rae Jackson
» William Hamilton
» George Berrish, III

Case Updates: 4 update(s) available

Jaci Rae Jackson conducted a careful - if not very discreet - reconnaissance of Mulerider Stables before having her mother's boyfriend steal five horses from there on Nov. 3. She later watched as one of the horses, Shaun Smith's Credit Card, was shot and killed.

Those details were made public today in an affidavit supports an arrest warrant for Jackson and others that was announced Monday by Southern Arkansas University officials.

CLICK HERE for a video of a news conference on Monday in which Jackson's arrest was discussed by Southern Arkansas University officials.

Jackson, with residences in Broken Bow, Oklahoma and Buckner, is spending her 19th birthday today in the Columbia County Justice and Detention Facility awaiting her first court appearance on Wednesday. She is charged in Arkansas with three counts of theft of property over $25,000, and three counts of theft of property between $5,000 and $25,000 - the amounts representing the values of the five horses and a horse trailer. She is also being held on McCurtain County, Oklahoma warrants for bringing stolen property into the state, concealing stolen property, and cruelty to animals.

The affidavit, written by SAU Police Department Sgt. Investigator Donald Wray, said that witnesses saw a white male in a hoodie-style sweatshirt backing a dark-colored truck to the trailer on the night of Nov. 3. Jackson and her mother's boyfriend, William "Billy" Hamilton, were both known to drive such trucks.

Wray wrote that Jackson had two fellow rodeo students, Luke Ware and Angel Squyers, show her around the stables. Ware told Wray that Jackson took notes regarding the locations of the stalls of where the stolen horses were taken, as well as writing a physical description of the horses. She also counted stalls in the area where the stolen horses were housed.

"Luke Ware also made statements to investigators that Jaci Rae Jackson told him that she knew people who had stolen horses in the past. Angel Squyres told investigators that Jaci Rae Jackson had asked her about the ownership of the horses inside the Mulerider Stables. Squyres states that the horses Jaci Rae Jackson asked about were those taken.

"It was also discovered during the investigation that Jaci Rae Jackson had some form of romantic problems with at least one of the owners of the stolen horses. Jaci Rae Jackson had also told Luke Ware prior to the thefts that some of the owners of the stolen horses 'had made her mad.'"

The affidavit said that a confidential informant came forward to the McCurtain County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Office on Nov. 7. Jackson contacted the informant on Nov. 5 and asked for help to move the horses.

"The informant told investigators that Jaci Rae Jackson told them that 'Billy screwed it up.' At the time of the phone call, Jaci Rae Jackson told the informant that the horses were in McCurtain County but needed to be moved to another area in the county. While meeting with the informant, investigators were able to determine that the informant furnished relevant details about Jaci Rae Jackson and the alleged theft that satisfied the investigators in showing that the informant was reliable.

"The informant had also recorded another phone conversation that they had with Jaci Rae Jackson. During this recorded conversation, Jackson shared details with the informant regarding the disposal of one of the stolen horses known as Credit Card. She stated to the informant that she wanted the horse killed and that she watched as Credit Card was shot in the head and had its throat slit by William 'Billy' Hamilton."

Hamilton and an identified juvenile cut up the horse for disposal, the affidavit said.

The stolen horse trailer was observed by law enforcement at the home of Jackson's mother, Wendi Cox. It was later recovered on property owned by Jackson's relatives. The horses were located on property adjacent to the residence of Cox. Four of the horses were tied to trees in poor condition, and Credit Card's mutilated remains were also found.

"After checking Jaci Rae Jackson's phone records, Facebook profile as well as talking to witnesses and friends of Jaci Rae Jackson, it was discovered that Jaci Rae Jackson is an associate of William 'Billy' Hamilton and the identified juveniles. William 'Billy' Hamilton is the current boyfriend of Jaci Rae Jackson's mother, Wendi Cox," the affidavit said.

Jackson is a freshman at Southern Arkansas University and a member of the Rodeo Club. She was picked up during a traffic stop on U.S. 82 about 1 p.m. Monday by Arkansas State Police Trooper Seth Pinner.

Eric Plummer, SAU police chief, told a press conference on Monday that more arrests are expected. "Other suspects known to be involved in this case will be brought to justice," Plummer said. He urged anyone who may still have information about the case to contact law enforcement.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Butler said at the press conference that Jackson would have her first court appearance on Tuesday, but that appearance has since been moved to Wednesday at the Justice and Detention Facility. After Jackson's first court appearance, Butler will file charges and Jackson will be formally arraigned on December 15.

Butler is also considering a criminal mischief charge against Jackson. He is investigating whether such a charge is appropriate concerning the death of a horse.

Those with information are urged to contact the SAU Police Department at (870) 235-4100, Arkansas State Police Investigator Hays McWhirter at (870) 703-2065, or the McCurtain County Sheriff's Department at (580) 286-3331.

Case Updates

William "Billy" Hamilton was ordered held under $150,000 bond on Thursday in connection with the Southern Arkansas University horse theft case.

A second defendant, George Berrish III, 17, of Ashdown, was released under house arrest in the custody of his father, and was ordered to return to court on July 5.

In another development, arrest affidavits for the two men were released in which Arkansas State Police investigator Hays McWhirter outlines his interviews with both men, and what they told him about the thefts on Nov. 2 of five horses and a horse trailer from SAU's Mulerider Stables. Berrish claims to have known nothing about the thefts, and Hamilton said the death of Credit Card was the result of an accident in which a T-rail post went through the horse.

Hamilton, 58, whose last permanent address was in Avon Park, Florida, is charged with four counts of theft of property (three horses and a horse trailer) valued at less than $25,000, and two counts of theft of property valued at more than $25,000 (two horses).

Hamilton and Berrish stood before Circuit Court Judge Larry Chandler at the Columbia County Justice and Detention Facility for their first court appearance.

Berrish and Hamilton were arrested last week. The horses and trailer all belonged to members of SAU's Rodeo Team. The case has drawn widespread attention in the equine and rodeo worlds after four of the horses were found tied to trees and starving in McCurtain County, Oklahoma. A fifth horse, Shaun Smith's Credit Card, was found dead " an investigator's affidavit filed in Jackson's case said Hamilton shot the horse on Jackson's orders, slit its throat, and quartered the horse.

In McWhirter's affidavit, Hamilton told the investigator that he did not kill Credit Card. He said he saw that a T-rail post had gone through the horse's abdomen and that it was severely injured. He told McWhirter that he didn't know who cut the horse up.

Court papers allege that SAU student and rodeo team member Jaci Rae Jackson masterminded the theft and ordered that Credit Card be killed. An Oklahoma judge ruled recently that there was sufficient cause to send Hamilton and Jackson to trial in connection with the thefts and the death of Credit Card.

In court on Thursday, Barrish appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit. His father, George Berrish Jr., stood with him as Columbia County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Butler described the charges against him.

The younger Berrish said he has a 10th-grade education and no full-time job. Butler acknowledged that Berrish was indigent and needed to have the court appoint an attorney for him. Public defender David Talley said he had potential conflicts of interest due to his connections with the university. Chandler told Berrish that an attorney would be appointed for him through the 13th Judicial District's public defender office, but that he did not know who it would be.

Butler said he has consulted with McWhirter and does not think that Berrish is a flight risk. Butler recommended that Berrish be released to his father's custody. The father and son were warned that officers will check to see that the younger Berrish is either at home or at work and if not, Berrish would be found, arrested and jailed without bond until his next court date.

"Not guilty" pleas were entered for both defendants.

Hamilton, dressed in a plain white T-shirt and blue jeans, also heard Butler outline the charges against him. Hamilton also said he had no money or property, and needed an attorney appointed to represent him.

Butler said Pike County authorities are holding Hamilton on a probation violation, and that he faces legal problems in Howard County in addition to the horse theft-related charges in Columbia County and Oklahoma. Chandler ordered Hamilton held on a $150,000 cash or corporate surety bond.

In McWhirter's affidavits, dated Monday, the Arkansas State Police investigator said that Berrish claims to have had no involvement in the theft of the horses or trailer. Berrish admits that his truck was at the home of Jaci Jackson and her mother, Wendy Cox, on the morning that the horses showed up. He claimed to have spent the day hog hunting and never saw the horses.

McWhirter's affidavit in Hamilton's case said that Berrish was with him when he stole the horses and trailer from Mulerider Stables. In Jackson's case, a confidential informant told investigators that Hamilton, Berrish and a third man, Dustin Chandler, helped her move the horses in Oklahoma to prevent their discovery.

The affidavit in Hamilton's case provides more details about the theft and possible motives.

McWhirter said that on Nov. 7, a confidential informant came forward, telling lawmen that two days earlier, Jackson called to ask for help with moving the stolen horses. The informant recorded a second conversation, in which Jackson said she wanted Credit Card killed and that she watched Hamilton shoot the horse and slit its throat. Jackson told the informant that Hamilton and a juvenile cut the horse apart for transport and disposal.

The following is a transcription of McWhirter's affidavit in Hamilton's case, with a few editing changes:

After checking Jaci Rae Jackson's phone records, Facebook profile as well as talking to witnesses and friends of Jaci Rae Jackson, it was discovered that Jaci Rae Jackson is an associate of both William "Billy" Hamilton and the identified juvenile. William "Billy" Hamilton is the current boyfriend of Jaci Rae Jackson's mother, Wendi Cox.

On Thursday (May 10) Billy Hamilton was picked up in Avon Park, Florida, on a warrant from Pike County. Billy Hamilton told the transport officers he would talk to no one except Hays McWhirter with the Arkansas State Police. Billy Hamilton was returned to Pike County Jail in the morning hours of Friday, May 11.

(McWhirter) interviewed Billy Hamilton on May 11 at approximately 2:45 p.m. in reference to the stolen horses.

Hamilton stated he was tired of running and wanted to get everything straight. Hamilton stated that he had been dating Wendy Jackson Cox for several months. Bill stated he was helping Wendy pay some of the bills for Jaci Jackson, who was going to college at SAU. Billy stated that Jaci was given a leadership scholarship while on the rodeo team. Jaci didn't live on campus and kept her horse outside of Magnolia. Jaci and Wendy were talking about stealing several horses from the SAU barn, sell them, and use the money to get Jaci a really good horse. Billy states that anything Jaci wanted, Wendy got it for her. Billy stated Jaci had several people on the rodeo team walk her through the barn and she drew out a map of where certain horses were.

Jaci started telling (Billy Hamilton) and Wendy that one rodeo member ripped the pocket of her jeans trying to have sex with her, and the other rodeo team member tried to rape her after a rodeo in Alabama. Jaci wanted to steal their horses. A plan was made but no one was sure about it. Billy stated he, Jaci, Wendy and a juvenile, George Berrish, went to the SAU barn and looked around prior to the theft.

The plan was that Jaci would have an alibi and she would be with someone the night before the theft and after the horses were taken, a blank text would be sent to her to let her know the horses were taken. Wendy had started backing out of the deal and told us to tell Jaci that someone was at the barn and we couldn't get the horses.

Billy stated he and George Berrish went to Magnolia in Wendy's white Ford King Ranch pick-up. Billy stated he went into the barn and led each horse out to the juvenile, who put them into a trailer they had picked out. Billy stated the trailer had three saddles and tack in it. After the loaded the five horses, then went through Hope, Nashville, De Queen and down to Horatio. At Horatio they stopped and talked about turning the horses loose in town " that way someone would find them the next day.

Then Billy and the juvenile went to Foreman, then to the Oklahoma line. Billy stated he was scared to cross the state line into Oklahoma, and he stopped. This was close to daylight. About this time Jaci showed up and the juvenile got behind the wheel and (drove) to Wendy's house. The horses were in the back stalls. The sorrel horse was running loose with Jaci's horses.

Billy stated someone drove by on a cell phone in a blue truck. It wasn't long before the sheriff's office showed up. Billy stated that he and the juvenile were in Wendy's trailer. Billy stated that Wendy was there and had someone lie for her that she was taking care of someone. Billy stated that Wendy went and got some wire cutters, where they could cut the fence behind her house to move the horses. Billy stated when they moved the horses after dark, the black horse was acting up so he tied it to a tree. The other four horses were turned loose with Wendy's and Jaci's horses. The horses had been fed and watered.

Billy stated Jaci had a gray mare horse that had never been bred and she was the leader of the pack. When the five horses were put in with the mare she was running the other horses. Billy stated he put one of his horses in with the gray mare and the mare bit and kicked his horse. Billy stated since the sheriff's office and others kept coming by, they knew they had to move the horses.

The next morning they went to move the horses, and a horse which was later identified as Credit Card had a metal T-post through his stomach. Billy stated after they found the horse, it died shortly after. Billy stated he didn't shoot the horse. Billy stated that he, the juvenile, Jaci and another white male he didn't know rode the horses into a clear cut and let the four horses go. Billy stated that all four horses still had a halter on. Billy stated after they finished, Wendy came and picked them up.

Billy stated he and the juvenile left and the last time he saw the dead horse it was in one piece in the corner of the field. Billy stated he didn't know who tied the four horses up, or who cut the horse up.

Billy stated that he and the juvenile stole the trailer and five horses but didn't kill the horse or tie the horses up in the clear cut.

Billy was told by Wendy that someone would call the sheriff's office and tell them that they were hunting and they saw someone unloading the horses in the clear cut where the horses would be found.
Source: Magnolia Reporter
Update posted on May 18, 2012 - 7:24PM 
A preliminary hearing has been rescheduled to May 14 in McCurtain County, Okla., District Court for a woman charged in a case of animal cruelty and theft of five horses.

Jaci Rae Jackson, 19, of Broken Bow, Okla., was scheduled for a preliminary hearing next Tuesday.

District Attorney Mark Matloff had a conflict with another court case and was granted a continuance. The defense attorney and judge agreed to the delay.

The May 14 hearing will address the three charges filed against Jackson in Oklahoma " knowingly receiving stolen property, bringing stolen property into the state and cruelty to an animal.

Jackson is charged with the theft of five horses from Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia in November. A horse trailer and several pieces of riding equipment were also stolen from Mulerider Stables.

The estimated value of the stolen horses and equipment was $200,000.

Jackson was arrested Dec. 5 in Magnolia. She has been released from detention centers in Idabel, Okla., and Magnolia after posting bonds in both states.

According to the Oklahoma court document, an informant went to McCurtain County Sheriff's Office to discuss previous conversations with Jackson. While at the Sheriff's Office, the informant called Jackson, and the conversation was recorded. The teen allegedly told the informant the horses were tied up in an area near the home of Jackson's mother, Wendie Nicole Cox, in McCurtain County.

Jackson told the informant "a couple of boys that are on SAU's rodeo team had attempted to rape her, and she planned on stealing the horses to get them kicked off the rodeo team," according to the document.

No dates or details about the alleged attempted rape were mentioned in the document.

Jackson reportedly said two men were going to assist her in stealing the horses.

In another telephone conversation, Jackson allegedly told the informant three other men moved the horses from Cox's home and tied the animals in an area with thick brush. Jackson also told the informant the horse named Credit Card was killed, the court documents state.

Jackson reportedly told the informant the horses were north of her mother's house on the west side of "8-Mile Road."

On Nov. 15, four of the five horses were found near the area Jackson reportedly described to the informant.

During another phone conversation with the informant, Jackson allegedly said that her mother's boyfriend killed Credit Card by shooting the horse and cutting its throat.

On Nov. 25, the remains of Credit Card were found in five areas of a pasture about a half mile north of Cox's residence.

Special Agent Hays McWhirter of the Arkansas State Police said the boyfriend is a person of interest but has not been found.

In the March 1 court proceedings in Arkansas, Circuit Judge Larry Chandler scheduled a trial for Jackson on July 26-27.

In Columbia County, Jackson is charged with four counts of theft of property over $5,000 and two counts of theft of property over $25,000.

The affidavit states Jackson acted as an accomplice in planning the theft of the horses, the trailer and related equipment.
Source: - Mar 9, 2012
Update posted on Mar 9, 2012 - 3:13PM 
Southern Arkansas University police are looking for a person of interest in the killing of a SAU rodeo member's horse.

Police say William Hamilton is wanted in connection with the killing of an SAU rodeo horse named "Credit Card". Hamilton also goes by Billy Mitchell. In a police affidavit, an informant said "Billy" was the one who allegedly killed "Credit Card" and helped steal the trailer the horse was in.

Jaci Jackson, 18, has already been arrested with the theft of the five SAU horses from the campus stables back in November. Four of the horses were recovered, but "Credit Card" was later found dead.

If you have any information about this case, please call your local police department.
Source: - Jan 13, 2012
Update posted on Jan 15, 2012 - 12:56PM 
"Not guilty" was the plea entered Wednesday during a first appearance hearing for Jaci Rae Jackson, 19, who is charged with several felony counts relating to the thefts of five horses from the Southern Arkansas University stables on Nov. 3.

Bond had previously been set at $100,000. Circuit Court Judge Larry Chandler told Jackson's attorney, Michael Lusk, that he could file a motion to reduce bond.

Jackson made bond on the Columbia County charges on Wednesday, but remains held at the Justice and Detention Facility pending an extradition hearing to McCurtain County, Oklahoma. Jackson faces charges there of bringing stolen property into the state, concealing stolen property, and cruelty to animals.

Four of the five horses were found on Nov. 15, tied to trees on a farm and almost dead of starvation and dehydration. A fifth horse, Credit Card, owned by SAU student Shaun Smith, was found dead on Nov. 25. The horse had been shot and mutilated, authorities said.

Chandler told Jackson her court date would be set according to the docket.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Phillips asked the judge for additional conditions to Jackson's bond, including no contact with the victims in the case or presence on the SAU campus.

Jackson, a freshman business major from Broken Bow, Oklahoma, is accused in a law enforcement affidavit of asking a family friend to kill one of the horses, which he did as she watched.

Lusk said Jackson had matters still to clear up with the university and that her former roommate was still in possession of some of her property.

Phillips said arrangements could be made with the SAU Police Department via email to resolve issues with the university and also to return any property.

The majority of the SAU Rodeo Team was in attendance for the hearing Wednesday afternoon, nearly filling one side of the courtroom.

Among them was team coach Rusty Hayes. "We brought the family," he said.

Hayes said outside the courtroom that he and the team were still in a state of disbelief and numbness.

Asked what he hoped team members would learn from this situation, Hayes said he didn't know.

"They're going to be more aware," he said. "Just like the barn, we used to hang out there and didn't think anything. Now you watch, you're more aware of your surroundings. You don't feel as safe as you used to. I'm speaking for them."

"It's kind of like having your house broken into," Hayes added. "You feel violated. It's the same basic thing. It was a barn, but it was our home away from home. We spend a lot of time there."

Hayes said he still shakes his head in disbelief that this happened. "You just don't think somebody that's in the rodeo world or deals with horses could possibly do that to them. It goes against everything we believe. They (the horses) help us perform and perform for us. So their care we don't take lightly."

He added that these horses are like family to these students. He said they probably spend more quality time with their animals than most anyone else.

Also charged in the case in McCurtain County are Mickey Carter and Charles Tremmel. They are not connected with the horse thefts, but are accused of concealing stolen property. They are free on bond.
Source: - Dec 12, 2011
Update posted on Dec 17, 2011 - 10:40PM 


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