Burglaries and break-ins seem to go up when the Christmas holiday season nears, prompting local police to be on the lookout for would-be perpetrators.
Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey said Thursday one of his patrol deputies may have caught a would-be thief red-handed, arresting one suspect who police believe was in the act of pilfering through a broken-down vehicle on a roadside near Dodge City.
Patrol officer Drew Shelnutt was driving along County Road 588 Wednesday night when he came across an apparent vehicle theft in progress.
“Our patrol came up on a guy breaking into the vehicle,” Rainey said. “Someone who had been driving a Ford F250 truck had apparently broken down and left the vehicle on the side of the road to go get assistance. Our patrol officer noticed another truck, a small Ford Ranger, pulled off the road just behind the broken-down vehicle.
“When he got out to investigate, he found that the alarm was going off in the Ford F250, and two of the windows were smashed out. There was a guy standing right beside the truck, who wasn’t able to give satisfactory answers to our deputy about what he was doing there.”
A records check revealed the man, 25 year-old Joshua Dewayne Finley of Hanceville, was wanted by Cullman city police for allegedly failing to appear in court on a minor traffic charge. The check further showed that the truck he was allegedly driving — the Ford Ranger — wasn’t his; that it had instead been stolen in late November from an Albertville car dealership.
“Everything [Finley] told the officer — it didn’t add up,” Rainey said. “We found him to be in possession of some checks that appeared to be stolen out of Blount County. He showed the officer a bill of sale for the Ranger he was in, and the tag had been switched. The VIN number that was supposed to go with the Ranger actually came back matched to a car and not a truck. It turned out the truck was confirmed to have been stolen out of Albertville on Nov. 26.”
Finley was charged with unlawful use of a vehicle, breaking and entering, second-degree receiving stolen property and second-degree forgery. He also faces a failure to appear charge in Cullman. He remains in the Cullman County detention center; a bond had not been set late Thursday.
“I think it’s just good, proactive patrolling that turns up stuff like this,” said Rainey. “This time of year, you tend to see a little bit of an increase in burglaries and theft, and our patrol officers are being pretty diligent about observing anything out of the ordinary. Officer Shelnutt made this case by himself, on the spot, and that’s just good police work.”
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.