About $100,000 worth of stolen property has been recovered by Columbus Police officers, who arrested two people after discovering hundreds of items hidden in a local garage and storage unit that were reported taken in thefts and burglaries.
The investigation began with a traffic stop earlier this month after officer Drake Maddix was sent to a call about a suspicious vehicle in the 2800 block of Riverside Drive, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.
Maddix, assisted by other Columbus police officers and Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputies, identified the vehicle’s occupants as Brian J. Stewart, 35, of 1424 Chestnut St., and Norma J. Holley, 34, of 2737 Maize Drive, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.
Officers saw that the vehicle was filled with items including jewelry, dishes and clothing, Harris said.
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After determining the couple did not have permission to be on the property where the vehicle was found, Stewart attempted to flee in the vehicle, but he and Holley were stopped and arrested, Harris said.
Officers recovered a 9 mm handgun from under the vehicle’s front passenger seat, Harris said.
After obtaining a search warrant for the vehicle, officers found 70 syringes, methamphetamine and a number of stolen items that police were able to trace back to thefts and burglaries in Columbus, Edinburgh, Franklin, Seymour, Freetown and Whiteland, Harris said.
Officers served a second search warrant at a Columbus storage facility where they recovered a large amount of stolen property including Social Security cards, passports and mail, as well as tools and lawn equipment reported stolen in two 2017 Columbus burglaries, Harris said. Police also recovered stereo equipment reported stolen in a 2016 Bartholomew County burglary, he said.
When serving a third search warrant at a garage in the 1400 block of Lafayette Avenue, where police said Stewart and Holley were storing stolen items, police found flat-screen televisions and a 12-gauge shotgun later traced back to other burglaries outside of Bartholomew County. A stolen vehicle from Rensselaer was also recovered, Harris said.
Some of the items have been returned to their owners based on serial numbers and other forms of identification that could be matched through a national database police use to track stolen merchandise.
When serving the search warrants, police found evidence of empty Amazon boxes, indicating items might have been stolen from deliveries to homes, Harris said.
The police department has limited space in its property room, so the sheriff’s department is assisting in storing the large amount of stolen property as police work to return it to owners, Harris said.
Some of the stolen property has been linked to cases in Columbus and Bartholomew County, but other items have been linked to cases all around Indiana, Harris said.
Holley and Stewart were arrested on felony charges of possession of a legend drug-injection device, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a controlled substance, receiving stolen auto parts and three counts of theft, Harris said. They also were charged with misdemeanor counts of possession of a handgun without a license, trespassing and three counts of conversion.
Stewart was being held in the Bartholomew County Jail in lieu of $787,500 bond, jail officials said. Holley was being held without bond at the jail, jail officials said.
The investigation into the case is continuing and additional criminal charges are possible, Harris said.