Rash of thefts ends in arrest


A handgun, iPods, cellphones and makeup stolen from about 20 cars during the weekend were found after police stopped a suspicious vehicle driving through a New Whiteland neighborhood.

One man has been arrested, and police are asking the prosecutor to consider charges against him and a second suspect.

During the weekend, residents of the Country Gate, Tracy Ridge and Peachtree neighborhoods reported that their unlocked vehicles had been rummaged through, and the burglar or burglars had taken everything that wasn’t attached to the vehicle, New Whiteland Police Chief Ed Stephenson said.

Early Monday, a New Whiteland Police Department officer noticed a vehicle driving slowly on Princeton Drive. The officer, on the lookout for suspicious behavior due to the thefts, tried to stop the car, Stephenson said.

The driver sped down another block on Princeton Drive and stopped at the intersection of Southlane Drive, Stephenson said. The driver ran from the car. A passenger tried to run away from the vehicle as well, but a police officer stopped him before he could get away, Stephenson said.

Hours later, police arrested Steven L. Wagers, 32, 787 N. Main St., Franklin, when they found him hiding in his basement with a bottle of methadone in his pocket that belonged to a resident of Country Gate, police said. He was arrested on charges of resisting law enforcement, possession of a controlled substance and theft or receiving stolen property.

Wagers told police that he was wanted on a warrant for parole violation for theft, Stephenson said. In July, Wagers was released from the Indiana Department of Correction after serving time for trafficking with an inmate.

While officers were looking for Wagers, they got a search warrant to look through the vehicle left behind on Princeton Drive.

Inside the vehicle, police found dozens of items including a handgun, cellphones, charging cords, flashlights, iPods, makeup, prescription pill bottles and spare change that were reported missing from vehicles in the three New Whiteland neighborhoods. Items were stolen from residents’ unlocked vehicles Saturday and Sunday night, Stephenson said. Police are in the process of returning items to their owners.

The gun that was stolen has been given back to the registered owner, Stephenson said.

Officers were able to get DNA from several items inside the car that police suspect will link Wagers and the passenger to the stolen property, Stephenson said.

The passenger riding with Wagers was questioned and released because officers did not have enough evidence to immediately connect him to the thefts, Stephenson said.

The Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office will decide what, if any, charges Wagers and the other man should face.