by Clint Confehr
Bedford and Rutherford county men who are involved in separate cattle rustling cases pleaded guilty Wednesday in Marshall County Circuit Court where Judge Robert Crigler handed down prison terms.
James Michael Beddingfield, 30, Christiana, faces similar charges in Bedford County General Sessions Court and was indicted by the Bedford County Grand Jury on Monday as charged in six warrants alleging arson east of Unionville.
In the other multi-jurisdictional cattle rustling case, Mark Robert Carter, 29, of El Bethel, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of stealing an all terrain vehicle valued at $3,000. Carter and two others are suspects in cattle rustling and other theft investigations in Marshall, Bedford and Williamson counties.
In both cases, a prosecutor summarized information the state intended to prove if there were trials. Both defendants agreed to the descriptions of what happened and pleaded guilty.
The case against Beddingfield broke "wide open" to reveal other crimes when investigators charged him with stealing the two heifers from Max Todd's farm near Chapel Hill last year, Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce said in November.
Lawmen tracked the heifers to the home of a man related to Beddgingfield, Boyce said. Two saddles were also stolen from Todd who immediately recognized his livestock since he'd bottle fed them as calves. Conversation with Beddingfield's relative also led to the recovery of three stolen four-wheelers, five missing guns and a pump on a tank said to have been used to siphon gasoline from filling stations' tanks in other counties along Interstate 65.
Assistant District Attorney Brooke Grubb told Judge Crigler that Todd reported the theft of his heifers on Aug. 7, 2006 in Marshall County where Sheriff's Detective Bob Johnson developed Beddingfield as a suspect.
Confronted with mounting evidence, Beddingfield gave a statement and he was charged with theft and burglary at Todd's farm, Grubb said.
The full range of punishment for the charges against Beddingfield could have put him away for 12 years, but because of sentencing guidelines and application of other law and judgment, Crigler imposed two three-year terms which are to be served at the same time as a result of a recommendation from the prosecutor's office.
Meanwhile, the six arson charges against Beddingfield in Bedford County allege damages greater than $427,000. He allegedly set the fires on Oct. 26. A state investigator testified on March 15 that Beddingfield confessed to the arson charges.
Beddingfield still faces theft, burglary and vandalism charges in Bedford County Sessions Court.
The case concluded against Carter in Marshall County Circuit Court on Wednesday included his guilty plea to the theft of an ATV on Sept. 5, 2006 as Sheriff's Capt. Norman Dalton developed Carter as a suspect as a result of another investigation with the Bedford County Sheriff's Department.
Grubb told Crigler this case against Carter developed from a lawman's observation that the ATV was "sticking out of the back of a truck."
As in Beddingfield's case, mounting evidence against Carter indicated that he was involved in other multi-jurisdictional crimes and a negotiated settlement was reached in the case concluded Wednesday against Carter.
He petitioned Crigler to accept the agreement that he would accept a four-year sentence and that term would be served in addition to other incarceration imposed when he's sentenced on other charges in the 17th Judicial District.
Judge Crigler asked about restitution and defense attorney Chris Westmoreland of Shelbyville reported that the stolen property had been recovered.
Meanwhile, Carter is a co-defendant in a much larger cattle rustling case which was reportedly solved by the Bedford and Marshall counties' sheriff's departments last year as investigators from those departments closed in on a farm in Mooresville.
Carter, Ellen Clair Sales, 42, Shelbyville, and Jeffery Thomas Cantrell, 39, Unionville, are charged in connection with the theft of up to 27 head of cattle, mostly heifers, since early January 2006.
In yet another theft case that has victims in Marshall and Bedford counties, the culprit has been returned to jail as a result of his failure to abide by the terms of his probation.
Brandon Jamar Pope, 19, of Lewisburg, and a couple of Marshall County juveniles were charged with burglaries at or near Chapel Hill, including a victim who complained that wrapped presents were taken from under a Christmas tree in December 2005.
Bedford County Circuit Court Judge Lee Russell granted probation for Pope, but warned that if he tested positive for drug abuse, then he'd go to prison.
Pope was in front of Judge Crigler on Wednesday when he was being referred to Russell who holds court in Shelbyville on Friday. After a transfer order was requested, Pope's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Mike Collins, announced that he "decided to plead guilty and serve his five years" from a previous conviction.
Crigler accepted the agreement and sent Pope to jail.
Records show victims in the burglary cases included: Timothy Deaver, Daughtry Road; Hollis Paschal of Bedford County; Patricia Graves of Hearthstone Drive; as well as Tim Seisser and Katie Yankey, also residents of a Marshall County.
Mark Lynn Haislip appeared in Marshall County Circuit Court on March 7 when Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard noticed Haislip smelled like beer so Crigler ordered Haislip tested. The results were .08 percent, the level at which a defendant's abilities could be presumed impaired.
Haislip's attorney, William Haywood, said he can't let a client plead guilty if their abilities are impaired, but since Haislip was in court it seemed that he intended to plead guilty of dealing drugs.
Haislip pleaded guilty to five counts of selling drugs to a confidential informant working for the 17th Judicial District's Drug Task Force last year on Feb. 24, March 1, March 16, Aug. 23, and Aug. 25.
Grubb told Crigler task force agents used secret recording devices to gather evidence against Haislip during cocaine deals that included trips to Maury County and Haislip's Lewisburg residence.
All five charges drew 10-year terms, but four are to be served at the same time and the fifth is consecutive to the others, resulting in a 20-year sentence.
Because of sentencing guidelines passed by state lawmakers and and state corrections department practices, Haislip might serve about seven years before he's released on parole, Haywood said.
On March 6, Haislip assumed he'd be jailed, so he got drunk during what amounted to a goodbye party and didn't get home until 3 a.m. the day of his aborted sentencing hearing when he was sent off on a contempt allegation. Crigler said he didn't sign the contempt order and gave Haislip credit for the past two weeks in the county jail.