Text message helps brings charges in burglaries

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 29, 2009


Two young Vicksburg men and two juveniles might have escaped being arrested in a recent string of auto burglaries in the city and the county had they only been able to resist replying to a text message. What they didn’’t know was it wasn’t their friend who was texting them, it was the police — who already had their friend in custody.

“The technology caught them,” said Vicksburg police Sgt. Larry Holloway, who aided in the early Saturday arrests of three men and two juveniles believed responsible for approximately 20 burglaries in the Bell Meade, Highland and Amberleaf subdivisions Thursday and Friday nights.

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Sheriff Martin Pace was the first to respond to a call of an auto burglary in progress on Highland Drive about 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Pace made a traffic stop on a Dodge truck identified by the caller as the drop-off and pick-up vehicle for the burglars. The driver, 19-year-old Zachery Kiser, 8383 Oak Ridge Road, was taken into custody, but the others fled on foot. “In plain sight in (Kiser’s) vehicle was a woman’s purse that appeared to have been gone through,” said Pace. “An address from Amberleaf subdivision was on an I.D., and I immediately dispatched deputies to the address.”

Officers then decided to use Kiser’s cell phone to text others believed involved in the burglaries.

“We asked them where they were, and they told us almost immediately,” Pace said.

Police discovered two men and two juveniles hiding in the grass near the George Carr GM dealership on South Frontage Road around 3 a.m. Colton Branning, 18, 118 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Jason Henke, 18, 8383 Oak Ridge Road — along with Kiser — were being held in the Warren County Jail Saturday night without bond. Two young men, 15 and 16, were also arrested and were being held at the juvenile detention center, said Pace.

The five are believed responsible for a dozen auto burglaries reported in the Bell Meade subdivision off Porters Chapel Road Thursday night, as well as four in the Amberleaf subdivision Saturday night and three earlier in the year on Forest Oak and Madison Ridge drives, said Pace. Two vehicles were reported burglarized in the Highland subdivision Saturday night. In all the incidents, no damage or forced entry was reported, as the burglars apparently targeted vehicles with unlocked doors. A tally of all stolen merchandise had not been completed as of Saturday night.

“We feel like these individuals will be linked to even more auto burglaries in the city and county,” the sheriff said. “We’re preparing a list of recovered items and burglary reports, as is the city, and our investigators will meet with theirs in the next day or two to compare the lists and ensure these guys are charged with every single burglary they have committed.”

A subsequent search of Kiser’s truck turned up jewelry, a .357 magnum handgun, two baseball bats, four cell phones, two navigational devices, an XM radio and IPod, all reported stolen, said Pace. Kiser is thus far charged with three counts of auto burglary, while the other two jailed men face one charge each. More charges were expected. The juveniles are set to appear before Youth Court Judge John Price Tuesday, said Pace. Price will decide whether or not they should face adult charges.

Pace said Branning was just released from jail June 5, and is on parole for assaulting a law enforcement officer while in the Warren County Jail. Branning had been jailed since the fall of 2008 on a felony malicious mischief charge, said Pace, and had assaulted a guard and attempted to force his way out of a jail cell while incarcerated.

“He had not even been out of jail long enough to have his first 30-day meeting with his parole officer,”” said Pace.

Meanwhile, a loaded handgun was also recovered from the four who were discovered following Kiser’s arrest, said Pace. The gun has not been identified as stolen in any of the auto burglaries, leading authorities to believe the burglars were armed while they pilfered through unlocked vehicles in the typically low-crime subdivisions.

“It’s our belief they were actually armed while they were walked through these subdivisions and committing these crimes,” said Pace. “That’s really the most disturbing part of the story.”

Pace said he would not rule out additional arrests.