. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A preliminary examination date has been set for the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office deputy accused in a cattle rustling scheme and his alleged accomplice.

Trey Thompson, 36, of Carlsbad was arrested April 1 on charges of fourth-degree felony counts of transporting stolen livestock and conspiracy to transport stolen livestock, along with two misdemeanor counts of unlawful disposition of animals. He has been on paid administrative leave from the ECSO since early February, when the incident occurred.

Skeeter Chadwick, 39, of Carlsbad, has been arraigned in Artesia Magistrate Court on identical charges and is scheduled for an April 20 preliminary examination.

The arrests were the result of an investigation by the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB), initiated by a phone call placed Feb. 1 to a NMLB supervisor by Chadwick.

According to the criminal complaints, Chadwick contacted the supervisor to inquire whether he could be paid for costs incurred as a result of hauling stray cattle. Chadwick stated he was asked by Thompson to remove the cattle from his property and that neither he nor Thompson knew to whom the animals belonged.

The NMLB proceeded to make contact with Thompson, who told them he had found the cattle in his hay and requested Chadwick remove them from his property. When asked why he had contacted Chadwick rather than a NMLB inspector, Thompson replied he had little experience with cattle but knew Chadwick did, and also that he had heard of instances of inspectors impounding cattle and forcing their owners to pay for their return.

On Feb. 4, the NMLB was contacted by a property owner wishing to report evidence of suspicious activity around their cattle pens. The owner stated they had noticed several signs – including cattle tracks, human footprints, and tire tracks – of unauthorized activity and also had photos, captured by a game camera, of two vehicles, one hauling a “catch trailer,” entering the property and two individuals using feed to coax cattle not belonging to the property owner through a gate entrance on the property.

Additionally, the two owners of the cattle reported to the NMLB that a fence on their joint property had been cut, allowing the cows to escape. They were able to identify their cattle in the game camera photos provided by the property owner.

The NMLB supervisor further noted a dark-colored pickup equipped with a tunnel cover pictured in the game camera photos matched the pickup Thompson had driven to Chadwick’s property Feb. 2.

Chadwick consented to an interview Feb. 23, during which he admitted foreknowledge of the identity of one of the cattle’s owners. Following multiple unsuccessful attempts to obtain a statement from Thompson, the NMLB was contacted by Thompson’s legal counsel, who stated she had advised him not to submit to an interview.

Eddy County sheriff candidate Kelly Lowe, on whose ticket Thompson is listed as a running mate for undersheriff, issued a statement on his campaign’s Facebook page April 2 stating “the charges levied against Trey Thompson contains a ‘one-sided’ explanation of circumstances as determined by the investigator(s) and does not include Trey’s statements or evidence.”

Thompson is scheduled to appear for preliminary examination June 3 in Carlsbad Magistrate Court.