Central Texas man at center of cattle rustling investigation
By Dennis Turner, KXXV Central Texas
February 7th 2019
HILL COUNTY, TX (KXXV) -
If you thought the days of Texas cattle rustling ended long ago, think again.
Authorities say it remains alive and well and the case of a Hill County man proves it.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association calls cattle raising a more than $67 million a year business.
So it's no wonder investigators say they think 47-year-old William "Willie" Rittenbaugh saw an opportunity.
"We had a situation where a guy was renting a pasture, sub-leasing it and he got locked out of the pasture and when we went over there, his cows were gone," said Chief Deputy Rick White of the Hill County Sheriff's Department.
When investigators learned who'd rented the pasture they found a familiar name.
"We had dealt with him before," said White.
In fact, Rittenbaugh was already out on bond, on a similar charge. That's when detectives learned the Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association had tied him to almost identical cases in McLennan, Limestone and Navarro Counties, in addition to the case in Hill County.
"He would contract with people to pasture their animals, and so, maybe that owner would come up and find 'hey I don't see all my cows here,'” said White.
Investigators believe he'd sell the cattle, pocket the profit and find more victims with more cows.
Rittenbaugh's victims don't want to tell their stories of deception for fear of hurting the case against him. As one victim told me, they won't feel right about what happened until a judge puts Willie Rittenbaugh in prison for a long time.
That's one reason a judge recently increased his bail to more than $4.5 million...
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