Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies responding to reports of a possible grass fire at 9:57 p.m. Wednesday instead came upon two vehicles that had been reported stolen — one of them engulfed in flames, police said.
Deputy Andrew Dougan found the vehicles in a wooded area east of County Road South 100W and County Road West 800S, which is northwest of Jonesville near Interstate 65, sheriff’s department spokeswoman Judy Jackson said.
A Honda Prelude, reported stolen from Edinburgh, was on fire; a Chevrolet truck stolen from Columbus was still running but not damaged, Jackson said.
No suspects were located in the area, she said. Sheriff’s deputy Jon Lanning and Columbus police officers Matthew Martindale and Skylar Berry assisted at the scene, as well as the Wayne Township Fire Department.
Vehicle thefts have been on the rise in Bartholomew County areas outside the city of Columbus, with 79 reported last year and 25 vehicle thefts already so far this year, compared to 51 in 2014, according to sheriff’s department statistics.
Auto theft is a level 6 felony, which can result in up to 2½ years in prison with a $10,000 fine. With a prior conviction, the penalty increases to a level 5 felony with up to 6 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.