Stolen truck almost puts owner out of business

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$1000 reward offered

By Stan Welch

A White Plains plumbing contractor is very unhappy with the way the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office is handling the theft of his work truck and several thousand dollars worth of tools and materials.

David Smith, owner of Plumbers and Electricians, woke up New Year’s Day to find his work truck missing from his yard. He called 911 and within fifteen minutes, a K-9 officer was at his door to take an incident report. Not long after the deputy left, Toby Stacy another area businessman and friend of Smith’s, called to ask if Smith’s truck was stolen or if he was doing a plumbing jjob in the middle of a field over on Highway 81, about a mile from Smith’s home.

Upon arriving at the scene Smith found his truck bogged down in a field , with all the toolboxes open and empty. One of eight shovels from the truck was left, and it was clear they had tried to dig the truck out.

“I knew right away they had cleaned me out,” said Smith in an interview with The Journal. Missing were several thousand dollars worth of tools and more than five thousand dollars worth of materials and fixtures.

“We pride ourselves on being ready and having what we need on a job, so I keep that truck well stocked. I had to go to Lowe’s and spend almost $3000 just to keep working. Luckily, I was able to do that, or I would be sitting home out of business right now.” Even worse, the thieves took work orders, billing paperwork and other business documents from the truck. “They basically stole my plumbing company,” said Smith.

By the time Smith reached the site, Stacy had called 911 to request a deputy respond, which he did. It was the same K-9 officer. Smith said, “I told Toby we were going to get to see the dog work, because there was a stocking cap on the ground by the truck; but the officer just said no, there was no point in getting the dog out.”

Smith said the deputy spent more time on the phone talking about “office politics” than he spent viewing the crime scene. Toby Stacy, who was at the scene on his four wheel drive hunting golf cart, offered repeatedly to take the deputy out to where the truck was stuck, but he never even responded. “I don’t even know why he came the second time,” said Smith, “but he did ask me if I wanted forensics to come out.”

Smith said yes, because he felt sure there would be fingerprint evidence. “I had found a bottle of sunscreen I kept in the truck on the ground, and some snacks and a couple of plastic bags, so I felt like we might get some evidence.” Smith also told the deputy that he had seen a person just days earlier whom he knew had just been released from jail after serving several months for operating a chop shop.

“I had a strong suspicion and I wanted to see if his prints showed up. I knew it was trouble the minute I saw that guy. I really didn’t want to be on his radar. The deputy didn’t seem too interested”.

Smith said he rode and walked around the edge of the crime scene and along the woods at the back of the field, where he found other items, like a drill case and a battery charger. “I called 911 again and asked that a deputy return to the scene. I haven’t seen him yet.”

According to Smith, it took almost six hours for the forensics officer to arrive. “I know it was a holiday, but it’s the sheriff’s department. Why even send him after six hours?” Upon arrival, the officer pulled off the road in a low spot and became stuck in the same field. A friend who brought a log skidder to pull Smith’s truck out freed the forensics vehicle too, and the investigator left. According to Smith, he never even unloaded his equipment.

Sheriff John Skipper, after reviewing the various reports, explained that Chris Wilson, the forensics investigator, was rerouted twice on the way to the scene. “We had shots fired into a residence and he responded to that first, as he should have. He also was briefly involved in a pursuit in another case. According to the reports, he was called for at about 10:30 and arrived around 2:30.”

Skipper also said that upon speaking with Wilson, he said that the clothing item was a pair of tennis shoes found about a hundred yards from the truck, at the woods’ edge. “We couldn’t connect those to the truck. Plus they had been physically handled.”

Skipper also stated that Wilson reported that the truck was covered in mud from the efforts of the thieves to free it, and was unsuitable for fingerprinting. According to Skipper, Smith understood that and agreed with the decision not to try.

Smith said he understands the challenges facing the deputies and other officers. “I know these boys get frustrated because when they do catch a guy, the courts turn him loose. The fellow I think did it had done some work around the jail while he was being held, and when they got him to Columbia, it turns out he got double time credit and had already served enough to get out. That’s got to be aggravating, but hey, you have to keep catching them. It may just be another car theft to them, but it’s my livelihood. I just feel like if they had pursued it at the time we might have done some good. It was like ‘well, you got your truck back’.”

At a recent organizational meeting for the Cannon Bottom Road group, Sheriff John Skipper explained that budget constraints forced him and his department to set priorities and he conceded that property crimes not involving risk to citizens are fairly low on that list.

Smith is offering a $1000 reward for information leading to the return of his tools and the arrest of those responsible. Anyone having such information can contact Smith at 864-505-7973.