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May 31, 2013

Suspect in fuel theft apprehended

A man who allegedly stole a car, gasoline, and set a truck on fire to elude police was apprehended by Cullman County Sheriff’s deputies late Wednesday evening.

The suspect was identified as Joshua Blanton Smith, 32, of Selma. He has been charged with burglary third-degree, a Class-C felony, receiving stolen property first-degree, a Class-B felony, and theft of property second-degree, a Class-C felony. Chief Deputy Max Bartlett said the suspect was seen leaving a local school by maintenance  workers after a theft of diesel fuel was reported, and after a full day of investigating a tip came in to the sheriff’s office and Smith was found and arrested.

“Maintenance workers at the school followed him to a dead-end road and Smith jumped out of the vehicle with a bulldog, set the vehicle on fire, and fled the scene,” Bartlett said. “Evidence inside the vehicle gave us a lead on the suspect allowing us to identify him. After a full day of pursuing leads, we received a call that someone had given Smith a ride after he claimed to have broken down and we located him in a garage shop hiding near Battleground.”

Bartlett said Smith has a Selma address in Dallas County, but has been staying in the Cullman area for some time. The investigators determined the truck was stolen from Lacon and was a Morgan County commission vehicle, and the U-haul Smith used to carry the fuel was stolen from Quick Tires sales in Cullman. Bartlett said investigators are following up on some large, recent diesel fuel thefts to see if they are connected to Smith.

“Everyone involved did a great job,” Bartlett said. “Thanks to  the school employees for their alertness, the citizens who provided assistance in the arrest and the officers for   apprehending the suspect. Investigator Andy Ray will put the case together and present it to the district attorney for consideration.”

Smith is being held at the Cullman County Detention Center. A bond has not been set on the charges, but he is also being held on a failure to appear warrant related to an unlawful possession drug charge that includes a $5,000 cash bond.

Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.

 

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