A 19-year-old woman facing charges in two states for the theft of five horses from Southern Arkansas University is also charged with her mother in connection to a fire at the mother’s home in Oklahoma.
Jaci Rae Jackson and Wendie Nicole Cox, 37, of Haworth, Okla., are each charged in with second-degree arson for the house fire that occurred Aug. 14, 2010.
Authorities said the arson investigation gained new traction as Jackson was being investigated for the horse thefts from the university’s rodeo program. Four of the horses were found dehydrated and malnourished in Oklahoma, though the other one was found dead.
The Texarkana Gazette reports that Cox told McCurtain County sheriff’s investigators that she and her daughter found the home on fire around 3 a.m. when they returned from a rodeo. Deputies said Cox told them that a door looked like it had been kicked in, and two guns and a Volkswagen Jetta were missing from the residence.
Oklahoma Fire Marshal Lester Blake ruled the fire arson, concluding that blaze began on a living room couch and in a bedroom.
About a week after the fire, a witness told investigators that Cox repeatedly told her she couldn’t afford the house and asked her to help burn it. The woman also claimed Cox told her after the fire that Jackson and one of Jackson’s friends set the blaze.
On Aug. 26, 2010, Broken Bow police arrested a man who was driving the missing Jetta. The man told police that Cox wanted him to start the fire but he refused, though authorities say he helped Cox move items from the home into storage about two weeks before the house burned.
The man also told investigators that Cox called him the night of the fire, saying she wanted him to set it. He said the woman he was living with left the home for a few hours, and when she returned, told him, “It’s done.” Investigators said the Jetta served as payment for having set the fire.
Authorities have not been able to locate Cox to serve a warrant for her arrest.
Jackson faces six felony charges in Arkansas’ Columbia County in connection to the thefts of the horses, a horse trailer and equipment from the Southern Arkansas University campus in Magnolia. She has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.
In Oklahoma, she is charged with animal cruelty, bringing stolen property into the state and knowingly concealing stolen property.
Jackson appeared in court in Arkansas on Monday without an attorney. At the hearing, she waived extradition to Idabel in Oklahoma’s McCurtain County to face the charges related to the horse thefts.
A phone number for Jackson couldn’t be found Friday.
Online court records for McCurtain County show she has a Jan. 19 hearing on the arson and horse-related charges.
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