Three 18-year-old Jackson County men recently were arrested on felony charges after being connected to a series of four burglaries in August, police report.
Samuel Pace of Crothersville and Andrew Wheeles of Brownstown each face four Level 5 charges of burglary and four Class A misdemeanor charges of theft, while Griffin Stidam of Vallonia faces three Level 5 felony counts of burglary and three Class B misdemeanor counts of theft. Pace also faces a Class B misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief.
According to probable cause affidavits filed by three different agencies on Sept. 29, Pace and Wheeles were involved in four of the burglaries, while Stidam was involved in three.
The first burglary was reported Aug. 1 at Starve Hollow State Recreation Area in Vallonia.
When questioned by Jackson County Officer Brad Barker and Conservation Officer Blake Everhart about that incident, Pace and Stidam both said they and Wheeles wore masks and dark clothing and brought a backpack with a battery-powered saw. The saw was used to cut the metal hinge on a door to a boathouse near the beach to get inside. Wheeles was not available for that interview.
Once inside, the trio took BIC lighters, lighter fluid, a cash register and other small items, according to court records.
Taking the stolen property to Stidam’s house afterward, they opened the cash register to find a small amount of change, police said.
The second and third burglaries occurred Aug. 7 at a concession stand at the softball field at Brownstown Elementary School and another concession stand at the Brownstown Park.
Stidam told Brownstown Detective Jack Sanders and Jackson County Officer Kevin Settle, he drove Pace and Wheeles in Pace’s car to both concession stands, police said.
At the softball field, Pace said he used a crowbar to pry open a roll-up door at the concession stand. Nothing was taken from that concession stand, and Pace said this all occurred during the day.
That night, Pace told police he broke into the Brownstown Park concession stand with a crowbar, and that he and Wheeles stole candy, a trophy and a money box while Stidam drove around in Pace’s car. They took approximately $1,000 from the money box. The money and the rest of the stolen items were later returned to the Brownstown Little League Baseball Association.
Only Pace and Wheeles were present for the Aug. 13 burglary at the concession stand at the Brownstown Speedway, which was investigated by Settle.
Wheeles told Settle that he and Pace were on the way to a costume party and wanted to stop by the Jackson County Fairgrounds one last time before they went off to college.
After walking through the barns, the racetrack, the grandstands, Wheeles said they eventually ended up at the concession stand.
Seeing one of the serving windows open, Wheeles said they decided to go inside, according to court documents.
While walking back toward the grandstands, they noticed a vehicle and thought someone might be nearby.
Wheeles said he saw a camera on a ticket booth and told Pace it was there. To cut the wire to the camera, Pace gave Wheeles his pocket knife and boosted him onto the roof of the ticket booth.
Because there was already one camera, Wheeles said they decided to put on jumpsuits and masks and went back into the concession stand.
Pace held the window open while Wheeles climbed in.
Once inside, Wheeles said he saw a camera pointing directly at him, and promptly cut the cord to it and also unlocked the door to let Pace in, police said.
They took four rolls of tickets and a first aid kit, police said. A cash till, found lying on the floor by police, was checked but turned out to be empty.
Leaving the concession stand, they decided to see if they could get into the ticket booth. Wheeles said he tried using keys he found in the concession stand to see if they would work on the ticket booth, but they didn’t.
He said Pace used a crowbar to poke a hole in the plywood to look inside but didn’t see anything.
Another camera located on a nearby building used as a secondary cash register stand was not seen by Pace or Wheeles. Footage from that camera showed Pace wearing a T-shirt and basketball shorts and Wheeles wearing a Brownstown Cross Country T-shirt.
A Level 5 felony carries a sentence of one to six years in prison with an advisory sentence of three years, upon conviction.