BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – What started out with a couple of tips of a suspicious vehicle in the county, turned into one of the single biggest theft ring busts in recent Lee County history.
The Lee County Sheriff’s department now has more than $10,000 in stolen goods in their possession after West Point Police Chief Brad Roberts got a whiff of something bigger than just a suspicious vehicle moving through Donnellson and West Point in early October.
Roberts said a tip from a resident who got a license plate off a vehicle that was parked in an alley got the ball rolling and began a four-week investigation.
Arrested in connection with the burglaries were: Teresa Manning, 43, charged with possession of stolen property, possession of burglar’s tools, burglary 3rd degree, and ongoing criminal conduct. Joseph Manning, 18, charged with a warrant for failure to appear, and theft in the 5th degree, possession of burglar’s tools, possession of stolen property, and ongoing criminal conduct.
Brandon Manning, 20, charged with burglary 3rd degree, possession of burglar’s tools, possession of stolen property, and ongoing criminal conduct.
Gary Manning, age 52, who was already in custody at the Lee County Jail, was charged with burglary 3rd degree, possession of stolen property, possession of burglar’s tools, and ongoing criminal conduct.
Gary and Theresa are the parents of the the two other adult children.
The possession of stolen property and 3rd degree burglary are both class D felonies, which carry a maximum five year prison sentence and up to $7,500 fine. Ongoing criminal conduct is a class B felony, which carries a maximum of 25 years in prison according to Iowa law. The possession of burglar’s tools and fifth degree theft are misdemeanors.
“It started in Donnellson when someone had observed a vehicle behind a garage in an alleyway and a resident confronted them. They took off and he got a license plate and that’s what kicked it off. From that point we had several observations of that same vehicle and began investigating,” Roberts said.
He said authorities continued to receive reports of the same vehicle combing the alleyways and streets in the county.
Roberts said the investigation involved the collaboration of multiple agencies and many man hours.
“This was a result of some strong collaboration between agencies and a lot of manpower. We couldn’t have made this case without the efforts of my entire staff and the assistance of the sheriff’s department. These guys put in a lot of hours and most of these guys have other full time jobs,” Roberts said.
Lee County Sheriff’s Department Detective Chad Donaldson was also part of the investigation. He said Roberts started the investigation.
“Roberts is the one who started putting the pieces together there as numerous storage shed break-ins and reports of suspicious vehicles in the area. From there we developed the list of suspects and started the investigation as a result,” Donaldson said.
He said he expects additional charges relating to the string of burglaries to be filed as the investigation reveals additional details. Donaldson said a lot of law enforcement resources were used on the investigation, including manpower and techonology to build the case.
“We deployed certain tools at our disposal to assist with the investigation and to make sure we were aware of their locations and things of that nature,” Donaldson said. “We’re still trying to determine what items were actually stolen. But, for example, there was a tackle box stolen from a storage department that had more than $1,000 in fishing tackle in it, which has been identified and returned.”
He said the suspects are currently in custody.
“There are still multiple burglaries under investigation in regard to this particular crew, and I believe there will be additional counts of burglaries filed on these four.”
Donaldson said three of the four are sitting on $50,000 cash-only bonds.
Other items in the burglaries include snow blowers, several generators, fishing equipment, gas cans, about a dozen big screen televisions, tools and other memorabilia and paraphernalia.
Lee County sheriff Stacy Weber said anyone who thinks they may have been victimized by any of the burglaries in the county should contact the sheriff’s department to view the items.
“Due to the large quantity of possible stolen items, we are asking for the public to help identify property they are missing. Detectives Donaldson and (Clint) Wray can be reached at 372-1152 ext. 3332 and ext. 3313 to arrange for viewing of the property on Thursday Nov. 8th from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the sheriffs office located at 2530 255th Street, Montrose, Iowa.”
West Point/Donnellson Police Department, the Fort Madison Police Department, and Lee County detectives and reserves were part of the 4-month long investigation.
“The Sheriff’s Office wishes to thank the public for their assistance in this matter and the West Point/Donnellson Police Chief Brad Roberts and his staff and the Lee County Reserves for the extensive efforts and time put forth to bring this investigation to a close,” Weber said.
Those listed here are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.