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The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, with assistance and cooperation from several other adjoining counties, has broken a major theft ring and recovered items stolen up to six years ago. Sheriff Chris Degase reports that five people have been arrested at this time, and the investigation is ongoing with more charges pending.
On Aug. 23, at approximately 6:30 p.m., Douglas County Cpl. Brad Loveless and Deputy James McCleary responded to a call on West Highway 14 near the Douglas-Christian County line for an assault involving a weapon.
The assault call is still under investigation, but deputies recovered a stolen 2010 Dodge flatbed pickup that had been reported stolen in Douglas County on July 20. The Bessler brand flat bed, used to haul round bales, had been removed from the frame of the truck.
Shortly after this, the Webster County Sheriff’s Office reported they had recovered a 2001 Dodge flatbed that had been reported stolen out of Douglas County on July 20, as well. Webster County authorities said the bed had also been removed from their recovered vehicle.
This immediately launched an investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office that later involved several counties.
In the course of the investigation, a bulldozer that had been stolen in Newton County in 2008 was recovered on a remote farm in Douglas County. The uninsured bulldozer, valued at $85,000, was returned to its owner who reportedly had continued making payments on it since it was stolen.
Charged in connection with the stolen bulldozer was Frankie Rogers, 54, of Sparta. Rogers was taken into custody by the Christian County Sheriff’s Dept. at the request of Sheriff Degase on Aug. 25, for questioning. Rogers was placed on a 20-hour hold and a warrant was issued on Aug. 26 for receiving stolen property. His bond was set at $15,000. Rogers posted bond the same day.
On Aug. 30, Daniel Lakey, 26, of Ava, was arrested for receiving stolen property for his involvement regarding the stolen bulldozer.
Lakey, who had been a suspect since 2005, was also charged with tampering in the first degree for being in possession of a stolen Arctic Cat four wheeler.
Two four wheelers were stolen from Taney County and one of the four wheelers was recovered in Douglas County in 2005. However, the one found in Lakey’s possession most recently was altered and hidden to avoid its seizure.
Lakey was also charged with possession of that four wheeler which had its VIN (identification) numbers altered.
Lakey was also charged with another count of tampering in the first degree for his involvement regarding the theft and removal of the bed from the 2010 Dodge flatbed pickup recovered by Deputy Loveless. Lakey is currently incarcerated on a $65,000 bond.
On Aug. 30, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant on a residence in western Douglas County in connection with the theft ring and stolen property. The residence was occupied by Clinton Mitchell, 32, of Ava, and Amanda Hardesty, 22, of Ava, and their two small children.
During the search, a Yamaha dirt bike was seized that had been stolen out of Webster County.
Also seized during the search was a substance that field tested positive for methamphetamine.
Mitchell was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree, receiving stolen property, possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of methamphetamine precursors with the intent to manufacture.
Mitchell’s bond was set at $70,000.
Hardesty was charged with possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree, and possession of methamphetamine precursors with the intent to manufacture. Hardesty’s bond was set at $70,000.
Webster County has Adam Haynes, 37, of Fordland in custody on numerous charges.
Haynes also has numerous charges pending in Douglas County.
Sheriff Degase stated numerous other stolen items have been recovered in Douglas and Webster counties, however, formal charges have not been filed at this time.
This investigation is still active, and anyone with information regarding the above mentioned individuals is encouraged to contact the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office or Webster County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Degase estimates that authorities have recovered close to $200,000 in stolen merchandise between the counties involved.
Degase said this investigation could not have been successful, without the communication and cooperation between all the counties involved. He said the joint efforts between his county, Webster, Christian, Taney and Newton counties is what made the success of this investigation possible.