Suspended Wise County Prec. 4 Commissioner Terry Ross was indicted Tuesday for theft of $500 to $1,500 by a public servant, according to District Attorney Greg Lowery.The indictment stems from an Oct. 18 charge that he allegedly built three grubbing plows, two for personal use, with material belonging to the county and on county time, using county employees. The charge is a state jail felony, and if convicted, Ross could face 180 days to two years in jail as well as a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Ross is already scheduled to go to trial Feb. 19 for a previous felony charge stemming from similar incidents involving county property and employees.
He was suspended without pay in August due to those charges.
According to the arrest warrant affidavit issued in October for the most recent charge, Ross brought his father-in-law’s grubbing plow to the Precinct 4 barn in December 2011 and used it as a pattern to build three new grubbing plows.
One new plow was left at the barn, but Ross allegedly gave one of the new plows to his father-in-law, Billy Joe Shepherd, in exchange for providing the pattern. On Aug. 28, District Attorney Investigator Wes Wallace confiscated the plow at the county barn but did not find the third plow.
On Sept. 4, Wallace interviewed former Precinct 4 foreman Roy Teague, who confirmed that the three plows were built at the Precinct 4 barn with material belonging to the county and by county employees, on county time. He said he took home one of the plows.
Teague was also arrested in October and charged with theft of $500 to $1,500 by a public servant.
“Teague stated that the plow he took home was on his property in a ‘junk pile’ because it didn’t work the way it should have,” the affidavit says.
Wallace also interviewed Joe Michael Shepherd, son of Billy Joe Shepherd. The younger Shepherd told the same story – that in exchange for using his father’s grubbing plow as a pattern, Ross built his father a new plow.
The affidavit says Wallace showed Joe Shepherd a picture of the grubbing plow from the Precinct 4 barn, and “Joe Shepherd advised that it looked like the same plow that his father, Billy Shepherd, had been storing on his property.”
According to the affidavit, Joe Shepherd did say that sometime during the last three months, the grubbing plow had disappeared.
At Wallace’s request, Elite Metal Fabrications in Newark estimated the cost to build a plow similar to those built in the Precinct 4 barn would be $850, including materials and labor.
Wallace discovered the information about the grubbing plows while working on an investigation that led to the first charges filed on Ross, in which he’s accused of theft by a public servant and abuse of official capacity.