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THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2007
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Which way to go with tractor?
Speake High School theft suspect asked police for directions

By Seth Burkett
and Kristen Bishop

sburkett@decaturdaily.com · 340-2355

An Eva man might have gotten away with stealing a tractor from a school if he hadn’t stopped to ask a Decatur police officer for directions, authorities said.

Michael James Jaquess, 53, of 1075 Rock Creek Road, Eva, allegedly hitched a tractor to his Chevy pickup at Speake School and drove off with it Sunday at about 9 p.m., said Lawrence County Sheriff’s Investigator Lt. Tim McWhorter.

A witness alerted the Sheriff’s Department. Maj. Harold Knighten asked surrounding law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for a truck and tractor matching the description.

Jaquess drove to Decatur, where he stopped at the Cowboys gas station on Old Moulton Road Southwest at Brookline Avenue, said Lt. Chris Mathews, a Decatur police spokesman.

Across the street, Sgt. Larry Russell thought he recognized the truck and tractor as the ones Lawrence County authorities were looking for, Mathews said.

To Russell’s surprise, the
driver climbed out of the truck, walked over to his patrol car and asked him for directions to Woodall Road, Mathews said.

Decatur police notified Lawrence County that they had found the stolen tractor.

During questioning, Jaquess told McWhorter that he purchased the tractor from a man near the school and was not involved in the theft.

The Sheriff’s Department charged Jaquess with first-degree possession of stolen property, but McWhorter said the charge will probably change to first-degree theft of property following further investigation.

Both charges are Class B felonies.

“We have to check out his story about where he got it from. He gave Decatur police a different story than he gave us,” said McWhorter. “We know he’s involved in the theft, but we have to look into it further.”

Authorities are also looking into whether a Lawrence County man was involved in the theft.

“We believe (Jaquess) had a Lawrence County connection, but we’re not ready to release his name at this time,” said McWhorter.

The Lawrence County Jail released Jaquess on $10,000 bond Monday.

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