Archive for Thursday, May 19, 2005

Heritage theft with a hook

May 19, 2005

As the book on Heritage Tractor thefts goes, the latest chapter has turned out to be a strange one indeed.

Thieves cut through a chain link fence at the John Deere dealership east of Baldwin in the wee hours of last Thursday morning. They made off with three all-terrain vehicles and a high-end John Deere mower valued at $35,000 -- the same kind used to cut the grass at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. Total value of the haul was $61,000.

But, wait a minute. That's not the strange part.

On Wednesday, two of the stolen items -- most notably the 11-foot swath mower -- were found in a wooded area not too far from the dealership, which has seen more than its share of missing items over the past five-plus years.

"We recovered two of the units, the 1600 Turbo Power lawn mower and the Polaris Ranger," said Baldwin Police Chief Mike McKenna. "A farmer was in his field and came upon them hidden in a creek bed."

He also knew how the thieves went about getting the equipment. It was caught on tape by the cameras now employed at the dealership.

"They cut through the fence and went on through," said McKenna. "On the northeast corner of the building by the parking area sat this monster (mowing) machine. Security tapes show one of the individuals taking the machine.

"After reviewing the tape, we were able to figure out when they were there," he said.

The tapes also revealed other clues and the investigation continues.

"We've developed some leads off the evidence we've found," said McKenna. "Of course, the case will continue to unfold as we pick up leads. We're continuing to investigate."

Several months ago, Heritage owner Ken Wagner was able to thwart an attempted theft. Wagner was there late at night and that potential thief was arrested. That didn't happen this time around.

"We were not so lucky this time," McKenna said. "This was an organized ring (of thieves). We're talking with other law enforcement agencies in the area and will be meeting with them to compare notes."

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