Rodney Puckett

Rodney Puckett speaks with defense attorney Stefanie Jones-Campbell during a hearing July 12 in Pinal County Superior Court.

ELOY — Rodney Puckett, 70, remains in the Pinal County jail charged with abandonment or concealment of a dead body after he was caught in an Eloy drive-thru with his dead ex-wife in the front seat on May 13.

Some of the victim’s family wonder if Rodney Puckett, of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, not only concealed Linda Puckett’s body but may have done worse. Rodney Puckett told Eloy Police the two were traveling from Oklahoma to California and Linda died during an overnight stay at a Hampton Inn in El Paso, Texas.

The El Paso Police Department is not investigating the death of Linda Puckett as a murder, according to Sgt. Enrique Carillo, public affairs spokesman for the EPPD.

Carillo said the EPPD does not see her death as a homicide based on what Arizona medical examiners determined was the cause of her death, though they would not share what that cause of death is.

PinalCentral has officially requested the autopsy findings from several law enforcement agencies, including Eloy Police, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office and the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Linda’s son, Chris Fields, said a member of the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office told him that her cause of death was “natural trauma,” according to investigators.

“We have been having a lot of problems communicating with the coroner’s office, the Eloy Police Department and the County Attorney’s Office,” Fields said. “I’ve tried to get a copy of the toxicology report. I filled out the paperwork, gave them the money, they took my money but they said they won’t release the report to me for a number of reasons. At one point, I asked them what the cause of death was going to be and I was told that it would probably be listed as something called natural trauma.”

Fields said he had never heard such a cause of death as natural trauma. He said trauma itself isn’t natural, especially when his mother’s body was found with several injuries consistent with blunt force trauma including bruising to the right side of her head and left ear. A small amount of blood was also found coming out of her right ear.

“It seems that no one has any answers. Either they don’t care or they don’t know what is going on,” Fields said.

Fields said he and his family have also been trying to recover his mother’s personal effects that were with her at the time of her death but the Eloy Police will not release them.

“Her jewelry, her purse or anything like that. Once, they said they could send it to us. I waited a week or so and I didn’t get anything. I called them back and they said they’re not going to release anything. We just want to have her personal effects back. There has been plenty of time and I don’t see any reason why they would need that,” said Fields.

He added that in another strange twist in the case, the Pinal County Attorney’s Office approved an $80 payment limit for the victim, his dead mother, to receive mental health counseling.

“They approved an $80 maximum limit for counseling for my deceased mother, Linda F. Puckett,” Fields said. “I don’t think counseling is going to help her. They just don’t seem to really care. It is rather disturbing.”

When arrested, Rodney Puckett was wearing only his underwear. He told investigators that his ex-wife sleeps nude and he was unable to wake her that morning, so he loaded her onto a luggage cart, rolled it to the car and loaded her body inside, according to police records.

He told police he was just going to continue on the trip, take her body home and eventually bury her. He had apparently driven 445 miles with his dead nude wife in the vehicle.

“Rodney has a long history of getting slapped on the wrist for breaking the law and major things,” Fields said.

Puckett remains in the Pinal County jail pending the posting of $100,000 bond.

The charge against him of abandonment or concealment of a dead body is a Class 5 felony, with a possible prison sentence of up to 2.5 years. Other Class 5 felonies include theft of property over $2,000, personal possession of marijuana over 2 pounds, possession of marijuana for sale less than 2 pounds, unlawful use of means of transportation (driver).

The presumptive prison sentence for a Class 5 felony is 1.5 years for a first felony offense.

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