A curious Wal-Mart shopper can be thanked for helping with the resolution to an unusual theft in the store’s parking lot on Saturday, March 25.
The incident began around 1:30 p.m. when a shopper noticed two men “…messing…” with a parked black Jeep as he was putting his purchased groceries in his vehicle parked nearby. According to the probable cause affidavit prepared by Sgt./Detective Steven Herald of the Scottsburg Police Department (SPD), the male shopper related that “…he thought it was their Jeep until they took the light bars off (the vehicle) and began loading them into a silver Toyota.”
Using his cellphone, the man took a photo of the Toyota’s license plate. When the detective requested registration information, he learned that the Toyota was owned by James E. Bowyer of Marysville. Bowyer, 35, had been charged on March 10 in a local criminal case involving possession of methamphetamine (meth), maintaining a common nuisance, theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was released four days later on bail pending his jury trial on June 20.
Information about the theft of the two accessories, valued at over $500, and a description of the two men and the Toyota was distributed to other area departments.
At 4:39 p.m. that day, Det. Herald was patrolling on U.S. Highway 31 South when he said he saw a silver Toyota parked at a Scottsburg business. He called for backup after confirming the license plate number, and Patrolman Trevis Burr arrived and helped to block in the vehicle.
A man came out of the store and turned north, walking away, the officers noted. Ptl. Burr stopped him, asking him how he had gotten to the store and if he’d been in the Toyota. The man said he had walked there.
Asking for identification, the officers learned they were talking to Bowyer. As they stood there with the suspect, another man and a woman came out and appeared to avoid the police. Det. Herald handcuffed Bowyer while Ptl. Burr walked toward the couple. During Bowyer’s pat-down, the detective said he found a box of Nutty bars in the man’s crotch, fruit cups in his sleeve and other items in a pocket. All had allegedly been shop-lifted from the store. Value was set at a little under $22.
The officer stated he also found several knives and tools on Bowyer and a plastic container which contained meth. Bowyer said he found the meth on a shelf inside the store.
The couple was identified. Aaron M. Couch, 27, Scottsburg, said he and the woman rode to the store with Bowyer. The backpack that the couple had was identified as Couch’s.
Asked about the light bar theft, Bowyer allegedly said he “…could take us to it…” if he wasn’t arrested. Det. Herald refused that bargain. By this time, Deputy J.R. Ward had arrived to assist. He placed Bowyer in his patrol car to take him to the local jail. At that time, the affidavit stated that Bowyer wanted the deputy to recover the stolen light bars. The lights were found in the maintenance room of a Scottsburg motel.
While Bowyer and Couch were being transported, Det. Herald said he inventoried the contents of the seized Toyota. He said he found a glass pipe coated with meth in the center console. The backpack reportedly contained 17 syringes, more drug paraphernalia and .4 grams of meth.
Bowyer and Couch had initial hearings on Monday afternoon, March 27, before Senior Judge Nicholas South.
Couch is charged with Level 6 felony possession of meth and unlawful possession of a syringe and misdemeanor theft, visiting a common nuisance and possession of paraphernalia. Bowyer is not charged with visiting but rather maintaining a common nuisance, a Level 6 felony, plus the meth, syringe and paraphernalia possession charges, two counts of misdemeanor theft and misdemeanor false informing.
Both cases have now been assigned to public defenders, and both men’s bail is set at $15,000 by corporate surety bond or $1,500 cash. The initial jury trial date for each is June 13.
Couch’s public defender has filed a motion for a lower bail amount or release on his client’s recognizance. No hearing had been set on that matter as of March 29.