JONATHAN DAVID BUNDREN and MARY ANN FERRELL
ROGERSVILLE — Following a three-week investigation the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office nabbed an accused cattle rustler Tuesday during a raid which also allegedly yielded evidence of a drug trafficking operation.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Detective David Lafollette told the Times-News Wednesday that beef prices are high, and as a result cattle theft is on the rise.
One thing owners can do to help investigators solve these crimes is get back to the old-fashioned method of iron branding cattle for identification purposes.
Ear tags are easily removed, which makes it harder to track cattle, especially after the thief makes a sale.
Lafollette said farmers also need to count their cattle more often. Sometimes thefts aren’t detected until days or weeks after they happen.
“I’m sure it’s more of a problem than we even know,” he said.
For the past three weeks the HCSO and Tennessee Department of Agriculture have been investigating two separate thefts that took place around Nov. 13-14 — one theft involving 12 cows on Fishers Creek Road, and one theft involving two cows on Route 70-N near Devil’s Nose.
A person of interest was revealed during the early stages of the investigation, and on Tuesday authorities raided a home shared by Jonathan David Bundren, 35, and Mary Ann Ferrell, 48, at 120 Shiloh Church Road, in the Hickory Cove area north of Surgoinsville near the Hancock County line.
“Two cows is all we’ve recovered at this point, but we’re still searching livestock records and different names that we’ve recovered, trying to trace sale receipts and things like that,” Lafollette said. “We’re not sure where the others were taken, and any help anyone can give us would be greatly appreciated. We think there’s more people involved, based on his (Bundren’s) sales receipts.”
During the execution of the search warrants Tuesday, detectives also allegedly recovered narcotics and a .25 caliber handgun. Bundren and Ferrell are both convicted felons.
Narcotics Officers allegedly recovered more than an ounce of marijuana as well as a large quantity of Clonazepam, Subutex and Lortab.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said a portion of the pharmaceuticals were prescribed to Bundren and Ferrell, but officers also allegedly recovered a ledger documenting the illegal sale of those prescription pills.
Lawson said the number of pills recovered was also significantly low for the dates the prescriptions were filled.
“Between the drug ledgers and documentation pertaining to the cattle, officers were successful at recovering numerous other names that will render the investigation ongoing,” Lawson said. “All evidence was seized and removed from the home, pending further investigation.
Bundren was charged with theft over $1,000, filing a false report, two counts of possession of Schedule III narcotics with intent to deliver (Lortab and Subutex), possession of Schedule IV narcotics with intent to deliver (Clonazepam), possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are housed or sold, and possession of a firearm while in commission of a dangerous felony.
He remained held in the Hawkins County Jail Wednesday on $110,000 bond.
Ferrell was charged with two counts of possession of Schedule III narcotics with intent to deliver (Lortab and Subutex), possession of Schedule IV narcotics with intent to deliver (Clonazepam), possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, maintaining a dwelling where narcotics are housed or sold, and possession of a firearm while in commission of a dangerous felony.
She remained held in the Hawkins County Jail Wednesday on $100,000 bond.
Anyone with information about the remaining missing cattle, or any cattle theft in Hawkins County, is asked to call the HCSO at (423) 272-4848.