The White County Sheriff’s Department made two arrests on Friday in connection with a burglary at Union Ridge Cemetery, as well as the two oil field thefts, all of which occurred the previous day.
Don Douthitt reported that a theft took place at an oil lease he pumps on County Road 335 North in Heralds Prairie Township. Douthitt believed that the suspects opened the line on the stock tank and drained 110 barrels of oil from the tank as well as stealing two brass valves from the handles on the tanks.
April Bunnage, an employee for Podalsky Oil Company, reported that one or two individuals stole a three-inch plug valve off a load line and that a lock was cut on a building located at the site. Nothing was reported stolen from inside the building.
Jason Pruitt of Norris City told the responding officer, Sergeant Poole, that he takes care of the Union Ridge Cemetery. Pruitt realized that two metal buildings on the property had been broken into and advised Poole that he wasn’t exactly sure when the burglary happened but he gave a timeframe of between Aug. 20–21.
Poole went to one of the buildings and saw that the suspect pried back the metal on the back of the building and gained access inside. There, the suspect noticed that there was a video surveillance box and removed it, along with cutting the wires that connected the box to the cameras. The suspect tried and failed to remove a radio from a small tractor, and made sure to take: gatorades, mountain dews, ice cream and other snack items from the refrigerator that was inside the building. He also took a Stihl chainsaw, three echo weed eaters, one echo handheld blower and a metal detector.
A green and yellow 2013 John Deere Gator was taken from the second building, where the suspect gained entrance using the same method he did with the first. The suspect broke off the lock on the front door and took off, leaving a flashlight and a set of footprints in the mud.
Sergeant Poole contacted the Illinois State Police Crime Scene Unit where the Crime Scene Technician Jason Craddock processed the scene.
The White County Crime Stoppers had issued an award for $500 for any information in the connection with the Union Ridge Cemetery burglary.
As it turned out, the three crimes were connected.
Sergeant Poole received a Crime Stopper tip which led his investigation to Gallatin County. White County Sheriff Doug Maier and Gallatin County Sheriff Shannon Bradley worked alongside Sergeant Poole in locating the stolen John Deere gator at a residence in New Haven. Joseph Webb, 38 of New Haven, and Samantha Wheatley, 25 of New Haven, were placed under arrest for possession of stolen property.
At two different locations, many items were found that belonged to both Union Ridge Cemetery and the oil fields. Sgt Poole and Sheriff Maier interviewed both Webb and Wheatley. Both were charged with two counts of theft and criminal damage in reference to the oil field thefts and one county burglary and criminal damage in reference to the Union Ridge Cemetery burglary.
Denton Aud, White County States Attorney, obtained a bond of $100,000 on each individual.