FLORENCE — Rodney Puckett, 70, was sentenced Friday to serve just 15 days in jail for the concealment of a dead body after he was spotted in an Eloy restaurant drive-thru with his nude dead wife in the front seat in May.
Despite the state’s presentence report recommendations, Puckett was sentenced by Pinal County Superior Court Judge Jason Holmberg to 15 days in jail without credit for time served. He was also sentenced to three years of supervised probation.
In its presentence report, the Probation Department recommended Puckett serve 180 days in jail, with credit for 179 days already served and three years probation. If Holmberg would have followed the state’s recommendations, Puckett would have been released Saturday.
The additional 15-day sentence was asked for by his defense attorney, Stefanie Jones-Campbell, so arrangements could be made to get him home to Oklahoma.
With the additional 15 days in jail, Puckett will be released from the Pinal County Adult Detention Center on Nov. 23.
When initially arrested, Puckett told Eloy Police the couple was traveling from Oklahoma to California and his ex-wife, Linda Puckett, died during an overnight stay at a Hampton Inn in El Paso, Texas.
Linda Puckett’s nude body was discovered in a car going through the drive-thru lane of the Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Eloy on May 13, face down on the passenger-side floorboard.
Though investigators believe she died in El Paso the night before, El Paso Police are not investigating her death as a homicide based on the outcome of the autopsy.
The manner in which his ex-wife died remains undetermined, according to a Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy report. The ME determined she died due to cardiovascular disease and right ventricular cardiomyopathy, but investigators remained indecisive on the manner in which she died. Right ventricular cardiomyopathy increases the risk of an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) and sudden death. She was 74.
At Friday’s sentencing, a letter from Linda Puckett’s sons Scott and Christopher Fields was read aloud to the court.
“It is our firm belief that Mr. Puckett contributed to, if not being directly responsible for, the death of our mother,” the letter stated. “We feel the plea offer he is accepting is not proportionate to the crimes he committed. She was taken from us in a manner which did not allow us to have our final goodbyes. The carelessness in which he treated her deceased body is an example of the kind of actions that have come to be expected of Mr. Puckett.”
In the letter, the sons told the court that they know firsthand that Rodney Puckett has an explosive and violent temper.
Before Judge Holmberg handed down his sentence, he asked Puckett if he had anything to say.
“I’m sorry that I caused so much trouble,” he said. “I didn’t mean to. I lost my wife and her sons are full of it. She wrote them both out of her will. She didn’t want to have anything to do with them. I have never threatened her in any way. We had arguments like any other married couple but they weren’t physical. Is there any way I could get my stuff out of the car?”
Holmberg told him to work with his defense attorney to retrieve his belongings from the car.
For the Class 5 felony, he faced a presumptive prison term of 1.5 years for the charges, with a possible prison sentence of up to 2.5 years.
Puckett remains in the Pinal County jail until being released on Nov. 23.