BILLINGS — The Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the theft of a $35,000 new camper trailer, complete with a hitch lock from a West Billings property, and the owner is sending out a warning to other camper owners.
According to a police report, Nate Murphy’s camper trailer was recovered on Nov. 26 from land on the Crow Reservation just south of East Fork Pryor Road. However, the way it was taken is something he’s calling a brazen crime.
“You feel so violated when you lose something like that,” Murphy said Tuesday.
The adventures were just beginning for Murphy and his fiancé when they purchased their new camper trailer in 2020. “This was our retirement getaway vehicle,” he said.
He wants others who also purchased camper trailers during the pandemic to know what happened to him, "once they're gone, they're gone. We are uber lucky we got ours back.
He says, since it happened, they’ve noticed so many campers and trailers sitting in homes driveways, and on neighborhood streets without any security precautions.
“And a lot of people say well I got a hitch lock,” he said. “Well, I've learned they didn't even take my hitch lock off. They use the safety chains and wrapped it around their bolt.”
Murphy and his fiancé took to Facebook to alert others about their missing camper, back when it was taken some time around Nov. 19. The 2020 New Grand Design Imagine camper had a lot of valuable items inside, including fishing gear and solar panels.
Murphy was notified about his stolen camper from a man who lived in the area where it was dumped, down a muddy ravine on tribal land, according to the police report.
The man, who was out hunting, noticed the camper was badly damaged with its nose stuck in the mud. But it was a logo decal from the movie "Jurassic Park" on the camper that allowed him to identify it.
“Everyone's surprised that we've even recovered it because of that. But it was because of that good Samaritan out looking around, found it,” said Murphy.
The trailer was trashed though. “Cutting wires inside and damaging electronic,” he said.
On top of that, the thief also tore out the jack, bent the stabilizers, and gained access through a window.
The theft is under investigation by law enforcement, and no one has been charged. Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said he hasn’t seen a trend of camper thefts in the county.
Still, Murphy wants other camper owners to be aware.
“I didn't think twice. I thought I was saved because I had the hitch locked up, and I was in a well-lit area,” he said.
So now he’s investing in a heavy-duty $300 lock manufactured by a company called Ft Knox Locks, which he says is a small price to pay in comparison to losing an expensive camper.
“That’s a lot of work to defeat you know,” he said. “This will make any thief think twice about trying to take our camper again.”