HERMISTON, Ore. — In all his years ranching, Terry Anderson had never received a phone call like the one he got Jan. 15, 2016.
Anderson, who runs Anderson Land & Livestock with his wife, Debby, was tipped off by one of their employees that something was seriously wrong at the winter pasture along Feedville Road near Stanfield. Not only had one of the cows been killed, but body parts were strewn all over the scene.
“The kid was just in complete shock,” Anderson remembers. “It’s more than emotional. Those cattle are family to us.”
What happened was two men — Anthony Haigh of Stanfield and T.J. Kestler of Hermiston — sneaked onto the property the previous night, shot the heifer dead and attempted to butcher the animal right there in the field. Though the cow was skinned out completely, Anderson said most of the meat was left to waste. He suspects the rest of the herd may have spooked Haigh and Kestler to flee before they could finish.
There were 160 cow-calf pairs in the pasture, which were part of a synchronized breeding program, Anderson said. His ranch, which is based outside of Pilot Rock, is a “seedstock” operation, meaning they breed and sell bulls for other producers to build their herds.
Based on the evidence, Anderson said it was clear to him that Haigh and Kestler knew exactly what they were doing.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” Anderson said, shaking his head. “I just can’t imagine someone going out there and doing that.”
Haigh and Kestler, then 21 and 20 years old, were arrested just four days later. They each pleaded guilty to first-degree theft earlier this year. Haigh was sentenced to six months in prison, while Kestler received 24 months probation and 100 hours of community service. Both men were also ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.
The convictions might not have come without the help of another Hermiston man who decided to alert the authorities.
Grant Woods, 21, was in the room when Haigh and Kestler arrived to visit a mutual friend the same night they killed the cow. The two spoke freely about the crime as they cleaned their gun, according to Woods. The motive was apparently to sell the meat for beer money.
After talking on the phone with his fiancé, Woods decided to call the police.
“It was just completely wrong,” Woods said. “This was about doing the right thing.”
Though Woods did not know at the time, both Anderson and the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association were offering reward money for information leading to a conviction in the case. On June 9, Anderson finally met Woods face-to-face for the first time and presented him with a check for $5,000.
Another $1,000 was provided by the cattlemen’s association. Jerome Rosa, OCA executive director, said it is the first time in his three years on the job that they have actually paid the reward for cattle theft.
“OCA is more than willing to be a deterrent out there,” Rosa said.
Anderson said he and his wife appreciate what Woods did for them, and hope the incident will encourage more people to look out for each other in the community.
“Our society has created a mindset that if this type of activity doesn’t affect you directly, there is no need to get involved,” Anderson said. “Thankfully, there are individuals that are still guided by doing the right thing.”