UPDATE: Possible suspect in livestock shootings
According to a news release from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, investigators have a suspect in the livestock shootings that occurred in a private property area of Mansfield Ferry Road in Vidor. Fifteen cows and calves were found fatally shot on Monday, April 15, at approximately 8:50 a.m. by a concerned citizen traveling past the field where the cattle lay dead and dying, according to Sheriff Keith Merritt on the morning of the discovery.
Livestock/animal control officer Deputy Rocky Bridges said then that a necropsy would be performed on the deceased animals in an effort to find evidence against the person or persons responsible for the slaughter, the offender(s) facing felony charges for 15 counts of animal cruelty.
Caretakers of the deceased livestock were at the scene in the early afternoon of April 15, searching for clues as to who may have committed the livestock killings and waiting for a local veterinarian to arrive and examine the animals. Judy Williams, one of the caretakers at the property, said those slaughtered were more than just cattle to her; she had genuine affection for them.
"We nursed one of the calves from birth, bottle-feeding it," she said that morning, adding that she had no idea who would want to harm the cattle. "I tried nursing them (the dying cattle) back to life, but it didn't work this time."
Williams said in addition to the slaughtered cattle, two bulls were missing from the property. They are marked with the bar double-aught brand, a bar with two circles under it, and one is a registered Charolais.
"They were not among the dead," Williams said. "We can't find them on the property anywhere...They were either taken off the property or broke through the fence when they were frightened by the gunshots."
The bull were later discovered in hiding on the property, according to Williams.
Williams said she walked along the fence line of most of the property and found no bullet casings and no evidence the fence was down where the bulls might have crossed. She confirmed there are still cattle on the property and described some of them, particularly the females whose calves were shot, as "very traumatized" by the violent slaughter. She said neighbors with cattle have looked among their herds for the missing bulls to no avail. According to Williams, everyone in the neighborhood, especially livestock owners, are concerned about the shootings.
Deputy Bridges said Tuesday, April 16, the initial necropsy revealed the cows died of multiple gunshot wounds, but he was not able to release the caliber of the gun used in the incident. He said evidence is being examined at the crime lab, and several people are being interviewed in regard to the crime. A neighbor reportedly heard gunshots sometime during the night, and law enforcement officers are following up on leads.
"I just want us to find out who did it," Bridges said on April 16.
As of May 23, investigators hope they are one step closer by identifying a possible suspect. The case has been forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office for review and disposition. The name of the suspect is not being released at this time as that person has not been officially charged with the crime.
So for now, the investigation continues. Anyone with information about the livestock shootings should contact the sheriff's office at (409) 883-2612.