EL DORADO, AR (KSLA) - Wendi Cox was sentenced to 60 years behind bars for her part in the theft of 5 horses and equipment from the Southern Arkansas University rodeo team. She will have to serve at least 10 before she is eligible for parole.
The horses, tack and trailer were taken from the Mulerider Stables at SAU-Magnolia in November 2011. Four of the horses were found abandoned two weeks later in rural McCurtain County. The remains of the fifth were found in early December. "Credit Card" had been shot, his throat was slit and he had been cut into pieces.
Cox, of Hayworth, Oklahoma, was facing three counts of theft of property over $25,000 and three counts of theft of property between $5,000-$25,000 in connection with the case. The proceedings were moved to Union County over concerns raised by her defense attorney that she would not be able to get a fair trial in Columbia County.
Both Cox and her daughter, Jaci Rae Jackson, took the stand on Wednesday. Cox testified in her own defense and Jackson, who is also facing felony theft and animal cruelty charges in McCurtain County, testified against her mother.
Jackson testified that she did not know that the horses were being stolen. Jackson also said that, after the thefts and at the request of her mother, she tried to get a friend to help move the horses. It was that friend who notified authorities.
Jackson also swore that she told her friend that Cox had gotten herself into a lot of trouble.
Under cross-examination, Jackson admitted her guilt in the crime.
Bill Hamilton, another defendant in the thefts, also was in court today. Hamilton, Cox's boyfriend, has admitted to physically taking the horses from the stable.
In his opening statements on Tuesday, Prosecuting attorney David Butler painted Cox was an accomplice in the thefts, telling the jury of 9 women and 3 men that she and her boyfriend and another accomplice went to the stables, stole the horses, trailer and tack and took it all back to Oklahoma.
An Oklahoma sheriff's deputy has testified that he spotted the trailer on Cox's property, only to find that it was gone when he returned. It was later recovered on the property of a relative. The abandoned horses, along with Credit Card, were later found in the area. Investigators believe Credit Card was killed by Hamilton at Jackson's urging because the horse was too recognizable to be sold.
Both Cox and Hamilton also face cruelty charges in connection with the case in McCurtain County, as well as separate felony theft charges in Columbia County, Arkansas for an unrelated cattle theft case.
Jackson is due in court for a pre-trial hearing on April 1. A tentative trial date has been set for April 5. Jackson was a Southern Arkansas University student and rodeo team member at the time of the horse thefts. That's all in addition to the felony theft charges also faces in Columbia County.
In his opening arguments, prosecutor David Butler told the jury that Cox was "throwing her daughter under the bus" in order to avoid prosecution in the case, alleging Cox made up a story that her daughter was raped by a fellow student in order to establish a motive for the thefts.
Cox's defense attorney John Stroud countered Butler's opening statement Tuesday by telling the jury that it was actually Cox who was being "thrown under the bus" by her daughter and the other defendants in the case: Cox's boyfriend Billy Hamilton and George Barish.