MARKED TREE, AR (KAIT) – The Marked Tree Police Department, Lawrence County Sheriff's Office and Jackson County Sheriff's Office have been looking for two men suspected of stealing $45,000 worth of equipment from Arkansas State University Technical Center in Marked Tree. According to police, Billy Coram and Jonathan Carter of Jonesboro stole a 2003 Ford F150 Harley Davidson Edition pickup and various tools and equipment from the campus' auto body shop.
"Pretty much a lot of auto body repair stuff like air polishers and air ratchets. It appears they loaded the stuff up in the back of a truck and left with the truck," said Detective Jeremy Bond with Marked Tree Police.
Bond said some of the loot was found by a farmer in a ditch near Newport.
"It was actually submerged in water," said Bond. "It more or less looks like they cleaned out the stuff that wasn't valuable."
According to the incident report released by Marked Tree Police, six paint spray guns were missing, four sanders, six gallons of clear coat, one 110 volt welder, auto body paint and other supplies.
"We know that at least those two were inside that vehicle on Saturday. There's a possibility there might be two more suspects," said Bond. "They're also going to be suspects in a breaking and entering into a vehicle up in Independence County."
Jeff Bookout, Vice Chancellor of ASU Newport Technical Center, told Region 8 News Thursday the theft has changed the way the school teaches shop class.
"They got a lot of items that were pretty costly to the university here. This is really slowing this program down, because we have a new class of students that's going to be here for this spring. This has almost put them in a standstill for them to be able to continue what they're doing in their coursework," said Bookout. "That goes along with a technical program. You have those devices to be able to do the needed labs that they need to do."
Bookout said the university checked inventory after the theft. He said 60% of the shop's tools went missing.
"It was almost like they had stolen enough to set up shop somewhere because they had stolen sandpapers and filler and things like that," said Bookout. "If we can get this stuff recovered, it would be great. If not, this is going to cost the university to have to come back and buy new equipment to go into the classroom for these students."
"We've already identified through the list what was stolen. I sat down with the instructor and we looked at what do you need essentially to get through the semester, and so we're going to order that equipment so they can keep going through this semester and finish up," said Bookout.
Bond and Bookout said a reward will be given to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
"Mr. Bookout contacted me yesterday and said that ASU was offering a reward for $500 a suspect. We actually have a warrant issued for one of the suspects," said Bond.
"A gentleman's vehicle broke down on the road Friday night. A buddy of his was driving down the road Saturday, seen our stolen vehicle parked behind him and some people inside the vehicle. He turns around and tries to figure out what's going on and our suspects try to flee the scene after being confronted about being inside his friend's truck. In doing so, they went through a ditch and actually got the (stolen) truck stuck," said Bond. "When the truck was located, it had a few paint suits in it. That's about all. We believe in dealing with Independence County and Jackson County on the case that the majority of the stuff that was stolen is either going to be in Jackson County or Independence County."
Bond said some of the items could be stored in the Jonesboro area.