Charge dismissed in alleged theft case

By Steven Mross
This article was published January 13, 2018 at 4:00 a.m.

A theft charge filed last year against a former Garland County Road Department employee was dismissed Thursday after a hearing in Garland County District Court.

Andrew Thompson Vincent, 19, was arrested Aug. 1, 2017, and initially charged with two felony counts of breaking or entering and one felony count of theft of property more than $1,000, each punishable by up to six years in prison, for allegedly breaking into a secured area of the department and stealing several items.

On Aug. 14, Vincent, who was free on $7,500 bond, appeared in district court with his attorney, Brian Johnson, and pleaded not guilty to all the counts. A felony review hearing to determine if the case should be bound over to Garland County Circuit Court was set for Aug. 21.

On Aug. 21, Vincent again appeared and prosecutors withdrew both the breaking or entering counts and amended the felony theft count to a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

It was noted in court records that the complainant, Carl Breshears, with the road department, failed to appear. The case was set for trial on Oct. 26, but was continued until Thursday at the request of Johnson due to a scheduling conflict.

At Thursday's hearing, Breshears again failed to appear and Judge Meredith Switzer, at the recommendation of the state, dismissed the charge with the consent of Garland County sheriff's Investigator Brandon Huckaba.

According to the probable cause affidavit for the arrest, on July 19, 2017, Breshears reported someone had broken into a secured area at the department's facility at 151 Centennial Drive, cutting a hole in a fence to make entry.

He said two chain saws, valued at $900, two weed trimmers, valued at $600, and a yellow traffic vest were taken from three different department vehicles. Damage to the fence was estimated at $50.

Huckaba spoke to Breshears the next day and reviewed security video. Breshears said he believed a former employee, identified as Vincent, was the one responsible after viewing the video. He said Vincent had worked there for several months and noted the male seen in the video looked similar and had "the same walk and mannerisms."

In the video, a white male is seen walking down the fence line at around 4:27 a.m. and then walking around and going into the truck beds of two vehicles. He is seen opening the door to a third vehicle and going inside. The suspect stayed on the property until around 5:52 a.m. and Breshears noted no one should have been on the property at that time.

Huckaba compared the video footage to photos of Vincent found on Facebook and reportedly confirmed his identity.

Amy Walker, Vincent's mother, told The Sentinel-Record on Thursday her son was wrongly arrested and had never been in trouble before. She said the arrest and resulting publicity negatively impacted his life and "the actual thief has never been caught."

Local on 01/13/2018
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