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Man Steals Ribs, Gets 50 Years (Don't Mess with the Barbecue)

Worth a 50-year sentence? Maybe.
Worth a 50-year sentence? Maybe.
Photo by Tim Pullin

Barbecue is a serious thing in Texas. You may have come over and kicked your neighbor's cat, trampled the flowers and generally been a no-good, no-account rascal, but even then you know not to mess with the meat.

Well, a Waco man obviously didn't heed this cardinal rule, because he tried to steal a $35 rack of pork ribs from an H-E-B grocery store. Now he's slated to serve 50 years in prison.

Willie Smith Ward walked into the store in September 2011 and tucked the rack of ribs under his shirt -- right on top of his own ribs, come to think of it -- and turned and walked right back out. An employee, perhaps noticing that, you know, this guy had AN ENTIRE RACK OF PORK RIBS under his shirt, asked Ward what he had under his shirt. Then a rack of ribs slid out from under there, The Waco Tribune-Herald reported.

Ward, 43, may not have realized just how seriously Texas jurors take their meat, but he proved he belongs in this state by telling the employee to back off because he had a knife. The implication being Ward had a knife and he wouldn't hesitate to use it on the ribs of said employee so that he could continue exiting the premises to subsequently enjoy the ill-gotten ribs. (And maybe use the same knife to carve up the other ribs once they got all barbecued and delicious?)

Obviously Ward was caught, though it's unclear if the ribs were ever recovered. On Thursday, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the robbery of those ribs. The jury took into account five previous felony convictions for burglary, attempted robbery, aggravated assault, leaving the scene of an accident and possession of cocaine. He also had four misdemeanor convictions, including two for theft. He'll have to serve at least a quarter of his sentence before he's up for parole, according to the WTH.

In short, it seems that Ward has something of a criminal history that probably carried at least as much weight with the jury as the theft of those particular pork slabs of deliciousness, explaining the sentence. But still, here's hoping he did enjoy those ribs and that they came out succulent and delicious with either a dry rub or a really fine barbecue sauce. If he serves the entire sentence, each year of his life will be worth $.70 of those ribs.


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