EATON — Three arrests were made last week in an ongoing investigation after a string of thefts from unlocked cars. Another arrest was made in May.
William “Billy Smith,” 32, was arrested on June 24, after entering a vehicle at Fiesta Charra on N. Barron Street. According Eaton Police reports, Smith told police he was trying to steal a car charger. When searched, police found five packs of AA lithium batteries on his person; Smith said he’d intended to sell them to people who were cooking meth. This admission added possession of drug paraphernalia to a charge for attempted theft.
Smith has an extensive history in the county, including counts of theft, burglary, criminal mischief, drug-related offenses, harassment, domestic violence, probation violation, and failure to appear; many of the charges, however, were subsequently cleared. He is currently in custody at Preble County Jail.
On June 23, Mark Lefeld, 38, was arrested after stealing a debit card from a car on E. Wadsworth St. the previous night. Over the course of the day, Lefeld made purchases at Village Pantry, Dollar General, Kroger, and Dr. Smokey’s. Security footage and store employees confirmed his purchases using the stolen card.
Lefeld was arrested that evening on N. Maple Street. A new TracFone and charger were found on his person, both purchased with the stolen card; two receipts from his illegal purchases were found on him as well. He was also carrying a capped syringe, a knife, two large cold packs, and several packs of batteries, and was known to have several packs of Sudafed tablets in his possession the previous day. Lefeld was booked on charges of forgery, misuse of a credit card, receiving stolen property, and possessing of drug abuse instrument.
Lefeld is currently in custody, awaiting a July 6 court date.
On June 22, Matthew Spence, 26, was arrested for entering a car on Aukerman Street the previous night. While being interviewed by police, he admitted to stealing from another vehicle on the same street in the same time frame. Spence was charged with theft.
Additionally, on April 28, Joseph “Joe” Hodapp, 26, was arrested on an unrelated charge, and during a police interview, Hodapp admitted he’d entered several vehicles over the last month or so. He said they were all unlocked and he only took change. He confirmed the ones he could remember, which consisted of two on E. Decatur St., one on N. Franklin St., and one on S. Beech St. The owners also confirmed.
Hodapp also stole a wallet from the vehicle on S. Beech Street; he took the $10 cash that was inside, then tossed the wallet at a nearby daycare. A daycare employee found the wallet and returned it to the owner.
Hodapp has a long history of arrests in the county reaching back to 2010, including multiple theft and drug-related charges. He is currently in custody for theft, assault, and heroin possession. A court date is set for August 2.
“In pretty much all of these cases,” Sgt. Eric Beeghly said, “the thefts we’re seeing are from cars that were unlocked — and in some cases, the keys have even been left in the vehicles.”
Beeghly and the entire Eaton Police Department urge citizens to lock unattended vehicles.
“We’ve had one case where somebody smashed a window,” Beeghly said, “but the rest are unlocked. Someone just comes along and opens the door, and then they can take whatever you have inside with no trouble. If people can help us work to prevent these by keeping vehicles locked, we’ll start seeing these numbers fall.”
The thefts of items from unlocked vehicles are unrelated, Beeghly said, to a string of daytime break-ins and burglaries occuring in homes elsewhere in the county.
“These vehicle thefts are happening here in town,” he said, “and we’re not really seeing home entries. Those are happening up in the northern part of the county. But it’s a good practice to keep your home locked up just like your car. Don’t give people a chance to try.”