ELOY, AZ (KOLD News 13) - An Oklahoma man was caught driving with his wife’s naked body in the passenger seat after stopping for a meal at a fast food restaurant.
“Right now, we are at the beginning of the investigation so we don’t have information on how much bigger it can get," said Sgt. Kristie Barnette, public information officer for the Eloy Police Department.
Rodney Puckett, 70, was pulled over Monday, May 13, just off of Interstate 10 in Eloy after going through the drive-thru lane of a fast food restaurant on Toltec Road.
“I kept telling my coworker, I can’t believe what I’m seeing before my eyes," said Maria Davis, the Carl’s Jr. employee working when Puckett pulled up.
Davis said Puckett was honking his horn and appeared to be naked. But, it was a body in the passenger seat that really caught Davis off guard.
“What most caught my attention was her. I knew she was face down with her legs up in the air. It wasn’t normal," Davis said. “There was like a blue cover he had in the front, and he was like trying to cover her, like her behind, but her legs were still sticking up in the air.”
Police said the naked body of Puckett’s wife, Linda, was positioned upside down. Davis said she tried to stall to get a license plate number or more information.
“I was shaking, scared," Davis said. "My heart felt like it was going to stop, it was beating so fast. I was trying to keep eye contact with him, but I was scared.”
A detective with EPD happened to walk into the restaurant to use the facilities as Puckett was in the drive-thru. A customer alerted the detective to the dead woman in the car. Puckett was stopped just after pulling out of the parking lot.
During the investigation, Sgt. Barnette said they learned the Pucketts stayed at a hotel in El Paso, Texas, the evening before.
“The security video shows Linda and Rodney walking into the hotel room. Then, in the early hours of May 13, it shows Rodney exiting the room with a luggage cart and what appears to be Linda’s body, hidden by blankets," Barnette said.
Puckett told officers his wife, Linda, wouldn’t wake up in the hotel room, so he loaded her body in the car and continued towards their destination in California.
The Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office found what appears to be minor blunt force trauma to Linda’s body. The 74-year-old’s cause of death has yet to be determined.
Channel 6 in Tulsa reported the Pucketts are from Sand Springs, Okla. They were married in 2011, but were having marital issues. According to our affiliate, Linda had a restraining order against Rodney.
“They were going through a divorce and they had protective orders against each other," Cpt. Todd Enzbrenner said. "We didn’t think they had contact with each other, but apparently, they did.”
Detectives said they were last seen leaving their home with luggage on May 8.
Rodney was the subject of a Silver Alert in late April, but it was cancelled when he was found in a Kansas jail for eluding police.
The Sand Springs Police Department said Rodney and Linda were estranged when the Silver Alert was issued. They later got back together and took the trip together, according to Channel 6.
Authorities said Rodney is bipolar and has extreme back pain. Both conditions require medication, something he did not have during the Silver Alert.
Rodney has been booked into the Pinal County Jail on a charge of abandonment or concealment of a body. Additional charges may be filed later.
“In my 17 years as a law enforcement officer, I can not recall anywhere close to something like this occurring in this area, or the state," said Sgt. Barnette. "I don’t think there are many cases across the nation that you can point to.”
Bond was set at $100,000 for Puckett. His next court hearing is scheduled for May 21, 2019.