NAUVOO - Two thefts on the same property where a suspicious house fire occurred some time ago have been solved after stolen items were found scattered among several different locations and video surveillance showed a masked individual in the act of committing the thefts.
Byron Abe Owens, 37, of 145 County Road 3623, Nauvoo, has been arrested and charged with two counts of burglary third degree, one count of theft of property third degree and one count of theft of property second degree, noted Winston County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Jacob Eward. Additional charges against Owens could be pending, Eward said.
On Sunday, Sept. 26, Sheriff’s Deputy Nic Burns responded to the report of a break-in on County Road 3621 in the Nauvoo area, where a shop had been broken into by a lock being pried, Eward explained. Several tools, a welder and other items were reportedly stolen from the shop on the property of Michael Reed, who along with his family lost their home to a mysterious house fire in June, officials said.
Reed advised Burns that he was going to be installing security cameras around the area of the shop, authorities said.
On Monday, Sept. 27, Ewards and Investigator Matt Roberts went to the shop to conduct an investigation and look for evidence when they noticed a door was left open, so Roberts contacted Reed who arrived at the scene, Eward stated.
It was determined that about two hours after Burns had left from doing the first break-in report, a second break-in occurred at the same shop building, so investigators cleared the shop, making sure no one else was inside.
Reed reportedly gave law enforcement a list of additional items believed to have been taken, including assorted duck hunting equipment and two camouflage backpacks, investigators said.
This time, Reed reviewed footage from the security cameras, which was able to give investigators a description of the suspect, who was seen in the act of stealing items, according to Eward.
Security footage showed a slender white male, about 6’2” in height, wearing a dark colored hoodie, blue jeans, tan shoes, a tan COVID mask and a camouflage hat, investigators said.
Roberts recognized the tan shoes worn by the subject in the security footage as being worn by a subject who had been involved in an unrelated case, authorities said. Based on this lead, investigators went to the suspect’s residence in Nauvoo and spoke with the subject, who gave consent to search the residence, Eward said.
“As we entered the residence, we noticed the clothes and shoes used in the break-in next to the suspect’s bed,” Eward stated. “The suspect stated to us that he had let someone borrow his clothes.”
The suspect was adamant that the stolen items were in another individual’s vehicle, and that another person had broken into the shop, according to investigators.
When asked, the suspect allowed investigators to take the clothes they had found beside the bed as evidence.
Investigators made a traffic stop Sept. 27, at 9 pm. of the vehicle that was being driven by the individual Owens had described. The vehicle, a silver Toyota FJ Cruiser, was spotted near Highway 5 and County Road 3622 near Nauvoo, Eward said. The subject driving the vehicle had an active warrant from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for a probation violation, but turned out not to be a suspect in the shop break-in, investigators said.
The individual in the traffic stop informed investigators that a camouflage backpack in the back seat of his vehicle had been left there by Owens, Eward stated. After receiving consent from the driver to search the backpack, law enforcement found a box cutter with Owens’ name on it inside, according to Eward. The sheriff’s office recovered the backpack, determining it indeed belonged to Owens, leading investigators back to Owens’ residence
“As we pulled into the yard, the suspect took off into the woods,” said Eward.
At this point, Sheriff’s K-9 deputy Jonathan Oliver along with Bojan were called to the scene to help track Owens in the woods, investigators said. After not being able to locate Owens, sheriff’s officials found two more camouflage backpacks on that property that reportedly belonged to Reed, said Eward.
On Tuesday, Sept. 28, Ewards and Roberts and Chief Deputy Caleb Snoddy went to the Carbon Hill area after receiving information on Owens’ whereabouts. While in Carbon Hill, sheriff’s officials recovered more items in multiple locations believed to have been stolen from Reed’s property, Eward said.
As they continued their investigation in Carbon Hill, sheriff’s officials received information that Owens was walking along Highway 5 in the Nauvoo area, they said.
The sheriff’s office, which had already obtained arrest warrants on Owens, responded, and observed Owens, pulling up beside him and taking him into custody without incident, according to Eward.
While in route to the Winston County Jail, Owens informed sheriff’s officials of the location of more stolen items in Parrish, investigators said. On Wednesday, Sept. 29, Ewards and Roberts went to Parrish and recovered those items.
It is estimated that Owens had taken approximately $3,000 in items from Reed’s shop.
The Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office continues investigation into the suspicious fire that destroyed the Reed family home on the property where the shop was broken into, authorities said.
Winston County Sheriff Horace Moore commended his investigators for their hard work in solving this case.
“My investigators did a great job by solving and making an arrest in this case. It takes experience, time and commitment to solve this type of theft case. It seems like we are having one after another. We work hard on thefts and drug cases, and we will continue to do so. By working together, great things happen,” Moore said.
“I’m pleased to recover these items and give them back to the rightful owner,” said Eward. “I appreciate the investigators with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance.”
Reed was also commended for his assistance in helping law enforcement.
“Myself and Investigator Roberts will continue to go after thieves and recover stolen property,” Eward added.
Roberts noted, “We appreciate the community assistance on recovery of these items. We will continue to work hard for the citizens of Winston County.”
*When a defendant is charged with a crime, the charge is merely an accusation until or unless proven guilty in a court of law.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.