CLUNETTE — A VIN check on a Bobcat skid loader resulted in the arrest of a Goshen man solving the theft of John Deere Gator and the Bobcat.
Russell Weldon Leach, 46, 2109 S. Main St., Goshen, was booked in the Kosciusko County Jail at 6:02 p.m. Monday, March 28. Court documents show he is being charged with aiding, inducing or causing burglary, a level 4 felony; two counts of theft, a level 6 felony; and making false sales documents, also a level 6 felony.
Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Officer Shane Bucher was called to the home of Cheryl Mehlberg, near Clunette, March 9, when a contractor found forced entry into the residence. The intruder(s) had opened the garage door and removed a 2008 John Deere Gator from the garage. The Gator is valued at $5,000.
The contractor stated on the previous day Charles Blosser was assisting him, as a subcontractor. While working at the residence, two individuals arrived in a Ford F250 and spoke to Blosser. At the end of the day, Blosser walked around the home and found a window had been left unlocked. He locked the window, which is the same window broken to gain entry into the home. Mehlberg confirmed with police the only item taken was the Gator and provided police the serial number.
Later John Breading contacted police for a VIN check on a Bobcat skid loader. KCSD Officer James Marshall ran the number and found the Bobcat had been reported stolen by Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. Breading told police he had purchased the skid loader and a Gator on March 12, at the residence of William Harr. The items were purchased from Leach. A bill of sale was provided, which included the VIN numbers of both vehicles.
Marshall recognized the VIN number to the Gator as the same to the Gator stolen from the Mehlberg residence. He also found the Bobcat was stolen from Jerry Honorable and reported stolen to the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department on Dec. 31. It is valued at $15,000.
Officers uncovered the two individuals Blosser had spoken with were Russell Leach and Leach’s nephew. Investigation also found between December and January a Mark Johnson came to the Harr property with a single axle dump truck and the Bobcat skid loader on a trailer. The items were left at the Harr residence.
When police spoke with Leach, he produced two bills of sale dated March 13 indicating Johnson was the seller and Leach was the purchaser of both the Bobcat and Gator. Police noticed dates on the bill of sale were before the items were reported stolen and upon confronting Leach, he admitted he had manufactured the bills of sale and signed Johnson’s name.
Police learned Johnson dropped the skid loader off at Harr’s residence and Leach had agreed to purchase the skid loader for $2,000. He then sold the skid loader to John Breading for $3,000. Police also learned Leach and his nephew observed Blosser working on a residence near Clunette. While talking to Blosser he saw the Gator. He knew an associate who was looking to steal a John Deer Gator and contacted him, giving directions. The following day that individual contacted him and wanted to know where to store the Gator. The individual was told to take the Gator to Harr’s residence.
Leach is being held on $5,000 surety and $250 cash bond.