August 4, 2006
Special cattle theft investigators closed months of investigation in mid-June when a Brazoria County rancher reportedly confessed to crimes that spanned eight counties, 13 victims and roughly $250,000 in stolen cattle.
Jerome Heath Novak, 27, of Angleton is accused of stealing 289 cattle over a nine-month period at different locations along the Gulf Coast, among which were 17 cows and 14 calves stolen from baseball pitching legend Nolan Ryan's ranch near Rosharon. If convicted he could face a decade in prison and thousands in fines.
The break in the case, investigators with Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) say, came when 10 calvesone bearing unusual scarring after getting caught underneath a feed troughwas identified by a cattle buyer.
Many of Novak's reported thefts were of branded cattle, investigators say. Those he kept on leased land near his family's place. The unbranded cattle were mixed with cattle he already owned and sold at different sale barns around the area. Texas Agriculture featured the unsolved crime in its March 17, 2006 edition. About 90 of the stolen cattle have since been returned to their owners.