Tri-county theft ring crippled by area deputies
From ransacking houses to stealing trucks, a tri-county theft ring has been crippled by area deputies.
Four primary arrests have been made in connection with the initial burglary reported to the McLennan County Sheriff's Office on June 13 by a homeowner in Leroy who was targeted while the family was vacationing out-of-state.
"It was a really, really bad bunch of outlaw criminals, thieves," said McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara. "They're running around jumping out of stolen vehicles, stealing vehicles from each other, it's just crazy the way they were acting, but they're gonna pay the fiddler."
Rosa Lee Clark has been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, fraud-possession of identifying information, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
She remains booked in the McLennan County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $28,000.
Clark's boyfriend, Lucas Tighe, has also been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, fraud-possession of identifying information, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
He remains booked in the McLennan County Jail in lieu of bonds totaling $30,000.
A couple who MCSO deputies say Clark and Tighe sold the stolen property to, were jailed in the Navarro County Detention Center.
Kandace Benningfield is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity and possession of a controlled substance.
She remains jailed in lieu of bonds totaling $125,000.
Trent Freeman is charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
He was released on July 1 after posting a $100,000 bond.
Authorities say Clark is the ex daughter-in-law of the victim in Leroy who, in addition to a pickup truck, had tens of thousands of dollars of property stolen including tools, electronics and firearms.
"Basically called a 'fence'--those are people that receive stolen property and then distribute it out," said McNamara. "Even bad people will protect their family, not this group."
Some of the firearms turned up at pawn shops in Navarro County which, with the assistance of the NCSO's SWAT Team, led to a search warrant resulting in Freeman and Benningfield's arrests.
One of them confessed to knowing Clark which, detectives say, tied everything together.
"That confession led to linking all the major players and suspects involved in this crime spree, that we'd been looking at already, to other crimes as well," said MCSO Detective Eric Carrizales. "Very complex, but yet also very messy."
Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner says complicated cases like these demonstrate the importance of teamwork.
"Crooks do not honor jurisdictional boundaries," said Tanner. "We have an excellent working relationship with Sheriff McNamara and the McLennan County S.O., we were proud to assist them in helping the victims to recover some of their stolen property while getting these multi-county criminals off the street."
One of the suspects involved in the original home burglary is still on the run.
Detectives are asking for the public's help in finding William James who is wanted in connection with this case and for violating parole.
He has ties to the Austin area and may be driving the Leroy victim's white pickup truck, however, authorities believe it may have been altered and spray-painted a different color.
Anyone with information on James' whereabouts or the stolen vehicle is asked to contact the MCSO at (254) 757-5095.
In addition to that vehicle, other stolen property remains missing.
Authorities said they expected the number of crimes and suspects to grow as the investigation continues.
"The further we keep digging into it, the more we're finding out there's more crimes and more incidents that have occurred which is good because it's helping us close more cases," said Carrizales.