Avon Park man sentenced in bizarre horse theft
SEBRING A man arrested in Avon Park last year for butchering an Arkansas rodeo horse has been convicted in the revenge scandal, along with a Southern Arkansas University barrel racer and her mother. The bizarre story began when freshman Jaci Rae Jackson, attending SAU on a rodeo scholarship, told her mother that a rodeo teammate had ripped her jeans pocket while trying to have sex, and that another teammate had tried to rape her. That’s according to a May 14, 2012 affidavit filed in Columbia County, Ark. by State Police Trooper Hays McWhirter. McWhirter was seeking the arrest of William Webster Hamilton, 39, on six felony counts of horse theft and the slaughter of a rodeo horse to hide its body. Jackson and her mother schemed to steal and sell five rodeo horses to buy Jackson a more expensive mount. Three of the horses were worth more than $25,000 each.Hamilton, Jackson and her mother, Wendi Cox were convicted last week of stealing the horses and an SAU trailer to transport the animals to McCurtain County, Okla., which borders northwest Arkansas. According to the arrest warrant, Jackson had asked two fellow rodeo students to show her around the college stables. While there, she mapped the stalls of several horses and said she knew people who had stolen horses. Then on the morning of Nov. 2, 2011, Jackson, Hamilton and Cox took five horses, including Credit Card. In a recorded telephone conversation with Hamilton, Jackson said she wanted Credit Card killed, so Hamilton slit its throat, then quartered it to more easily transport and dispose of the pieces. At the time, Jackson was the boyfriend of Jackson’s mother, who denied in several Facebook posts that she or her daughter were guilty. Last year, she offered to “defriend” anyone who didn’t believe her. “I interviewed Billy Hamilton on 5-11-12 at approximately 2:45 p.m.,” McWhirter wrote in the warrant. “Billy stated he was tired of running and wanted to get everything straight.” “Jaci and Wendi were talking about stealing several horses from the SAU barn, sell them, and use the money to get Jaci a really good horse,” McWhirter wrote. “Billy stated that anything Jaci wanted, Wendi got for her.” Arkansas deputies interviewed students who identified Jackson as a suspect. They began driving by the Cox ranch, so instead of selling the horses, Jackson, Cox and Hamilton moved the animals to Oklahoma and tied them to a tree, where four nearly starved. At Cox’s trial in El Dorado and another trial a week later, Jackson, Hamilton and George Berrish III admitted their guilt to Circuit Court Judge Larry Chandler, and that Hamilton shot and butchered Credit Card. Cox was sentenced to 60 years in prison; Hamilton received 30 years; Berrish’s 10-year sentence was suspended. Jackson’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 11.