The cattle thief caught in southwest Missouri last week is presumed to be just one link of a large crime circle that has struck several cattle producers in the area.

Career cattle rustler likely part of a groupHoward L. Perryman was caught after a 12-hour manhunt last Thursday. He was tracked through a DNA sample from a paper towel left at the scene of a cattle theft in May 2012. The DNA matched samples taken from four other cases and in March 2013 the samples were matched to Perryman.

Prior to his most recent arrest, Perryman had more than 30 felony convictions. The Springfield News-Leader reports he was arrested for stealing cattle in 1988 when Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was a starting as a deputy sheriff in the county.

Authorities have recovered stolen equipment linked to Perryman’s arrest, but the livestock he’s stolen are harder to trace. They believe Perryman had accomplices in other states helping him move and sell cattle.

While the search for others in the cattle rustling ring continues, cattle producers are encouraged to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Officials won’t discuss details of the investigation, but Sgt. Jason Pace with the Missouri State Highway Patrol says others probably helped Perryman commit the crimes.

"I think this is a pretty big chess game," Sgt. Pace told the Associated Press.  

Arnott told the Springfield News-Leader he’d like to expedite the process to get Perryman away to prison where he belongs. Perryman was charged with two counts of felony stealing and one count of felony tampering.