Posted: Aug 15, 2012 11:50 AM by KPAX/KAJ Media Center
Updated: Aug 15, 2012 12:15 PM
MISSOULA- The Missoula County Sheriff's Department has cracked the case of some recent vehicle break-ins that have been happening around the county.
Public Information Officer Jason Johnson says that thanks to the hard work of Missoula County Sheriff's Detective David Walrod, nine vehicle break-in cases have been solved and 24 victims will see the thieves charged for their actions.
Johnson says that between July 10 and August 4, 2012 John Wheeler, 23, and a female accomplice broke into nine vehicles in Missoula County and Mineral County, sometimes breaking out windows to get to the valuables inside. Some of the items taken included purses with checkbooks, credit cards, cell phones and more.
Detective Walrod monitored bank records to see when and where the credit cards would be used in order to get surveillance footage of the suspects, according to Johnson.
In one case a $1,300 fly rod was taken so this prompted the detective to reach out to local pawn shops and ask that they watch for the valuable item. A short time later he received a call from a local pawn shop and had the name of the female who had pawned the fly rod.
Detective Walrod also tracked a stolen cell phone to a local gas station where it had been dumped and obtained surveillance video of the suspects disposing of the phone.
Johnson added that while Det. Walrod conducted his investigation, Justin Singleterry a Game Warden from Mineral County was investigating several vehicle break-ins that had taken place at various fishing accesses in Mineral County.
Warden Singleterry tracked a stolen cell phone to the suspect's house in Lolo and observed stolen items when he looked through the windows of the suspect's vehicle. Johnson says it was at this point that Det. Walrod and Warden Singleterry put their cases together.
Detectives from Missoula and Mineral County, as well as game wardens, helped Det. Walrod as he served search warrants on the suspect's home and vehicle on August 9th. While Wheeler couldn't be found at the time, he was later located and arrested. Johnson says Wheeler was in possession of stolen property when he was arrested.
Johnson says Wheeler's female accomplice was interviewed by Det. Walrod at the time and gave a full confession. Wheeler could face charges including: Felony Theft from a Motor Vehicle, Felony Forgery, Trespass to Motor Vehicle and Deceptive Practices.
The case has been turned over to the Missoula County Attorney's Office.