Man arrested for cattle theft, abuse
125 animals still missing, 40 found dead
A Greenfield man has been charged with stealing and animal neglect, alleged crimes Barry County sheriff's deputies are investigating in multiple counties and possibly involving more people.
Greg DeJager, 35, of Greenfield, was arrested in Lawrence County by the Missouri State Highway Patrol on June 2 on unrelated charges of passing a bad check. While he was being held in the Lawrence County jail, he was charged with felony stealing and animal neglect in Barry County.
According to the Barry County Sheriff's Office, DeJager advertised in various places online to take care of cattle for owners who were away or live out of state.
On May 22, he reported more than 50 head of cattle stolen or missing from a farm he leased near Wheelerville, where he had been contracted to take care of the cattle by the owners. The owners live in Nebraska and were paying DeJager a per head fee to care for the animals.
Det. Doug Henry began looking into the case and working with the owners of the cattle, determining the story DeJager's initially gave to deputies was not the truth.
On May 26, Henry, along with Det. Terry Meek and Det. Robert Evenson, served a search warrant on the property leased by DeJager on Farm Road 2080 near Wheelerville. The property is approximately 800 acres, and sheriff's office personnel were assisted by the cattle owners and cowboys on horseback. DeJager was not present when the warrant was served.
During the search of the property, 365 head of cows, calves and bulls, many of which were emaciated and starving, were collected, loaded onto trucks and moved to a location where they could be held and rehabilitated. A veterinarian who was on the scene indicated that the calves looked to be in good health generally, but the adult cattle were not being cared for correctly, not being fed enough and were in poor health due to neglect.
Investigators believe at least 125 head were still missing, and detectives located at least 40 dead cattle in various stages of decomposition. Some were in open wooded areas, and others had been buried or partially buried by a bulldozer.
Investigators believe DeJager collected the fees for taking care of the cattle, but did not actually take care of them. Investigators also believe DeJager may have moved or sold off a number of the cattle entrusted to his care, then reported them stolen to the legitimate owners.
DeJager is the first to be arrested in this scheme, and additional arrests are expected as the investigation progresses. Investigators believe that persons and property involved in this case are spread through Barry, Lawrence and Dade Counties, and may possibly be in an even wider area.
DeJager posted a $10,000 bond on Tuesday. He has an arraignment scheduled for June 28 at 8:30 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Robert Foulke.