Jail time ordered for man who stole from deceased rancher
William Eugene Smith, 53 of Woodward, will spend five years in prison after he pleaded no contest to four felony charges. The charges and subsequent jail time are the results of an investigation led by Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Special Ranger Ben Eggleston.
The case began in June 2017 when a then-unknown suspect or suspects burglarized the estate of the late Donnie Johnson in Ellis County. Numerous items were reported stolen from the ranch and residence, prompting an investigation by the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office and TSCRA Special Rangers. A reward was issued through Operation Cow Thief, an anti-theft initiative led by TSCRA, for information leading to the arrest of a suspect or recovery of the stolen property.
Not long after the reward was posted, Eggleston was contacted by an informant with a possible lead on a suspect and the whereabouts of a pickup truck and gooseneck stock trailer stolen from the estate. As a result, the stolen vehicle and trailer were recovered, and Smith was identified as the prime suspect. The investigation yielded additional stolen items, and Smith was arrested by Eggleston and Ellis County Undersheriff Monty Martin Aug. 18, 2017. Smith was booked into the Ellis County Jail where he remained pending trial.
On June 21, 2018, Smith entered a plea of no contest on the four charges that stemmed from the investigation – one count of felony unauthorized use of a vehicle and three counts of felony grand larceny. He was sentenced to 15 years in state prison on each count. The sentences are to run concurrently, with all but the first five years to be suspended.
TSCRA and Eggleston would like to thank everyone involved in the case, especially Ellis County Undersheriff Monty Martin, Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Agent Paul Cornett, the Woodward County Sheriff’s Office and all those in the public who came forward with information.