Florida the rules are different here Chapter LXIV
Cattle rustling isn't dead in Florida. Here it is still done by teenagers. Don't you just love Florida?
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OCALA -- "Moose," the steer that was believed to have escaped from his pen on Oct. 24, was allegedly stolen by friends of the 15-year-old boy who was raising him for scholarship money -- and sold at a livestock auction.
"We're working real hard to see if he's still alive," said Marion County Sheriff's Detective Edwin Mobley of the 862-pound steer.
Investigators have arrested Jonathan Stodghill, 16, and Joseph Reynolds, 17, and charged them with grand theft.
The animal was sold through the North Florida Livestock Auction approximately one week after his disappearance. The Marion County Sheriff's Department is working with the Department of Agriculture to track the transaction.
The red Beefmaster steer belonged to West Port High School student Jason Hillman. Jason planned to show Moose through the Future Farmers of America in February at the Southeastern Youth Fair -- where he had the possibility of earning scholarships for college by qualifying as a state farmer -- and he then planned to sell him. Now, Jason will have to wait until next year to enter another steer.
The teens who were arrested also attend West Port High School and are involved in the same farm programs as Jason.
Jason's mother, Sandy McCormick, is shocked. The boys had been over to their house and even helped Jason with breaking the steer in, she said.
"I can't believe that two children would do that to another child," she said.
Jason was taken by surprise as well. He said the three weren't "best buddies," but were friends.
"They're the last people you'd think. I guess they just did it for kicks, like a prank," he said.
According to the sheriff's report, the two boys allegedly used Reynolds' horse trailer to transport the animal to property in Dunnellon. The two broke the top board on the steer's pen and pushed on the wire to make it appear as if the animal broke out.
But McCormick said he had a feeling from the beginning that Moose didn't just escape.
"They seemed like all right kids on the surface, but obviously they're not," said Jason's father of the suspects.
When Moose was reported missing, authorities notified area livestock markets and provided them with his ear tag number. However, the teens allegedly removed the tag and burned it before taking the animal to the auction.
Believing they would need to be at least 18 years old to sell the animal, the boys asked an older friend to accompany them to the auction. The name of the accomplice has not been released. He told authorities that he was unaware that the steer was stolen.
The check was later mailed to Stodghill and then cashed by the friend. Reynolds and Stodghill paid the friend $50 or $60.
Moose was originally purchased by Jason's father, Mike Hillman, for $850. Stodghill and Reynolds sold the steer for only $575. Depending on where they took him, they could have easily gotten $1,200 to $1,600, McCormick said.