Story by Katlyn Mackie, Staff writer
The Murray State Police Department is increasing security to prevent thefts after saddles were stolen from the Bill Cherry Agricultural Exposition Center.
Jamie Herring, Murray State police chief, said two saddles were stolen from two separate, unlocked trailers at the rear of the Expo Center on Sept. 5. On Sept. 11, a saddle was stolen from an unlocked room in the Equine Barns.
Herring said the Murray State Police Department has increased patrols in the area and modified the positioning of cameras to have greater coverage.
Kaitlin McWhorter, sophomore from Cobden, Illinois, said she discovered her saddle missing from the tack compartment of her trailer and reported the theft immediately.
“I was devastated in finding that my saddle had been stolen,” McWhorter said. “I won that saddle after a long, hard year of competing in rodeo at the Central Arkansas Little Britches Rodeo Association.”
McWhorter said the Murray State police have been helpful and are keeping in contact with her about recovering her saddle.
“It was a saddle that would be a keepsake for the rest of my life, and I would greatly appreciate any and all help in recovering it,” McWhorter said.
Becky Ballard, building manager of the Expo Center, said in addition to the patrols, the Murray State Police Department implemented an 11 p.m. curfew at the farms.
The Murray State Police Department will take note of anyone’s name who is on the premises after 11 p.m. They will be reported to the Equine Center management. Anyone who is not a student boarder or Murray State staff will be asked to leave and will be considered suspicious.
Ballard said other measures have been put in place over time to make items more secure, like new security cameras.
The security cameras have been available at the West Farm for almost a year now, and they were put in place to help protect students and prevent thefts.
Unfortunately, Ballard said one of the cameras was down when the thefts occurred due to technological difficulties, and the camera “picked the wrong time to fail.”
Ballard said she is disappointed that someone would steal saddles from students. She said the saddles that were stolen were not locked.
“The best action students can take is to keep their valuable items locked,” Ballard said. “This is the best way to prevent thefts.”
Herring said both instances of theft from earlier this month are still under investigation.
“We encourage everyone on campus to secure their personal property appropriately and notify the Murray State police if they see anything suspicious or have information about this case,” Herring said.
Although these thefts are recent, this is not the first theft that has occurred at the Expo Center.
Ballard said thefts have happened over the entire history of students having horses on the university farm.
Herring said a trailer was stolen from behind the Expo Center in May 2016, and the Murray State Police Department investigated the case and recovered the trailer. A horse bridle was also taken from a trailer in January.
If anyone has information on the missing saddles, contact the Murray State Police Department at 270-809-2222.