POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (AP) _ A mistrial was declared Wednesday after a jury deadlocked in the trial of a Tennessee sheriff charged with stealing a sheep from a Missouri judge, but a prosecutor said he would press charges again.

Charles Kelly, who defended Dyer County, Tenn., Sheriff James T. ''Tommy'' Cribbs, said ''the people of Missouri treated my client right'' in the two-day trial that ended with the jury deadlocked at 6-6.

''I think it's a victory, of course,'' Kelly said. A mistrial is ''better than a conviction,'' but he had hoped for an acquittal, Kelly said.

Cribbs agreed he had received a fair trial, while prosecutor Bradshaw Smith said he would continue to press the charge.

A second trial in the case would likely be sometime this summer, Smith said. Howell County Circuit Judge John Holstein said he would announce a new trial date on March 25.

Cribbs was accused of stealing the sheep June 10 with the help of Eugene Lee of Dyersburg. Lee pleaded guilty last November, receiving a three-year prison sentence that was commuted to 30 days with five years' probation.

Cribbs said on the witness stand Tuesday that he had not killed the sheep, but that he had helped dress it after Lee told him he had run over the animal with a van.

During his testimony, Cribbs said he and Lee were in Missouri for ''a short vacation'' at the time of their arrest. He said he had agreed to help dress the animal after Lee woke him up at a motel and told him he had run over the animal. Lee later admitted that he had shot the sheep.

Rodney Davis, a former Dyersburg policeman convicted in 1982 of bank robbery, testified that Cribbs had told him that he had killed the sheep but did not worry about it ''because Gene Lee will take the blame.''

Cribbs was freed on $10,000 bond after pleading innocent in December. The Dyer County sheriff for a decade, Cribbs could have faced up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted.

The sheep belonged to Carter County Associate Judge David J. Hedspeth, who said Cribbs was an occupant of a van that passed his farm the day of the crime.

The judge earlier told authorities he heard shots and spotted the van, then found one sheep missing from his property and another bleeding from a gunshot wound. He estimated the value of the missing sheep at between $80 and $100.

Cribbs and Lee were later arrested at the motel in Van Buren. The arresting officer said he found parts of a dressed-out lamb on the ground outside the window of Cribbs' room.