70-year-old Rodney Puckett is charged with a crime that involves “knowingly” moving a body — and police say more charges may come


Jeff Truesdell

May 14, 2019 05:05 PM

At the drive-through window of the Carl’s Jr. restaurant in Eloy, Arizona, the naked driver who rode through with the naked woman in the passenger seat of the Volkswagen SUV around 7:20 a.m. Monday caught the attendant’s eye.

The worker alerted an Eloy police detective who happened to be inside the restaurant, and the detective, concerned about the occupants’ welfare, located the vehicle a short distance away, Eloy police Sgt. Kristie Barnette tells PEOPLE.

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The male driver, 70-year-old Rodney Puckett, was found to be wearing “only a pair of underwear,” she says. The woman, identified as Rodney’s 74-year-old wife, Linda Puckett, was seen “laying with her head on the floorboard and her legs on the headrest.”

“The detective realized very quickly that she was deceased,” says Barnette.

Police now consider that death to be suspicious, she says.

Arrested and charged with abandonment or concealment of a body — a crime defined in statutes that say it’s “unlawful to knowingly move with intent to abandon or conceal” a body — Rodney currently sits in Pinal County jail on a $100,000 bond, according to jail records.

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It could not be determined if he has acquired an attorney to represent him, or entered a plea.

Preliminary findings from the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office show that Linda’s body showed evidence of “blunt force trauma,” says Barnette, but the office is withholding a ruling on manner and cause of death until it receives the results of toxicology and other tests.

Rodney told police his wife had died in Texas while the two, who appear to be natives of Sandy Springs, Oklahoma, were making an “unplanned trip” to California, and he’d packed her up to continue on their way, says Barnette.

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Authorities so far have determined the couple spent Sunday evening at a hotel in El Paso, which was confirmed by hotel security footage that showed the two of them walking to their room.

In the early morning hours of Monday, however, “the security video shows Rodney pushing a luggage cart out of the room with what appears to be a woman’s body on it,” says Barnette. “The body was hidden by a blanket or sheet.”

“During an interview, Rodney told detectives that he noticed Linda was unresponsive in the hotel room, and when he was unable to wake Linda, he loaded her onto the luggage cart and into the vehicle,” she says.

Police have not been able to confirm the California destination of the couple, or whether Linda “went willingly or anything like that,” she says.

Asked how Rodney explained the couple’s lack of clothing at the Carl’s Jr. drive-through, Barnette says, “I don’t have anything to report on that.”

A statement from Eloy Police says additional charges may be filed.

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