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 restaurant drive-through with his dead ex-wife in the front seat in May.
Some wonder if Puckett not only concealed his ex-wife’s body in the vehicle but also perhaps murdered her.
Puckett, of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, was arrested May 13 after restaurant employees noticed something suspicious in his vehicle when he pulled up to a drive-through window at Carl’s Junior in Eloy.
Employees told police two nude people were inside a vehicle when they arrived at the drive-through window to retrieve their food.
The vehicle was located by a police detective who happened to be dining inside the restaurant in the area of Toltec Road and Interstate 10 at 7:15 a.m. The officer was alerted to the vehicle by employees and noticed a “nude deceased female” in the front passenger’s seat.
The “nude deceased female” was later identified as 74-year-old Linda Puckett, Rodney Puckett’s soon-to-be ex-wife.
The two were going through a divorce and she had an order of protection filed against him in Oklahoma.
The detective noted, “the woman was upside down in the seat and her buttocks were facing upwards,” according to the police probable cause statement.
The detective asked Puckett if the woman was dead, and he replied that he wasn’t sure, according to the police report.
“Linda was confirmed to be deceased by officers as rigor mortis had already set in,” the probable cause statement reads.
Rodney Puckett was wearing only his underwear and was placed under arrest. In a later interview, he told police they were traveling from Oklahoma to California and Linda died during an overnight stay at a Hampton Inn in El Paso, Texas.
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.
“Rodney then continued on his trip until he was pulled over by the detective,” the police report states.
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 wife in the vehicle.
During a search of the vehicle and an examination of her body, investigators found 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.
While the results of her autopsy remain unknown, her eldest son accuses Rodney Puckett of her murder.
In a victim impact statement, when asked what sentence the defendant should receive, her eldest son wrote, “Maximum allowed by law. Rodney Puckett has a lengthy criminal record, but has been largely unpunished for his crimes. In the eight years he was married to my mother, I came to recognize him as a violent, unpredictable, abusive individual. He frequently mentally and physically abused my mother. I remain convinced he caused the death of my mother, partly due to his frequent threats to ‘f---- — kill her someday.’”
The son continued in his written statement, “I am concerned he will attempt to declare temporary insanity. He is not insane. I am concerned that if he returns to Oklahoma, he will make threats to me, my younger brothers and their families.”
Puckett remains in the Pinal County jail pending the posting of a $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.