A West Plains man has been charged with four felonies after allegedly being found in possession of a farm tractor and trailer and using them to steal walnut logs from U.S. Forest Service property.
Elijah Todd Patterson, 31, Ross Lane, is facing a count each of stealing $25,000 or more, stealing $750 or more and altering or removing an item number to deprive an owner of property.
According to court documents, on Sept. 9, a 28-foot trailer was reported stolen from a farm off of Highway 14 in Howell County.
A month later, two Husqvarna chainsaws were reported stolen from a home in West Plains, and on Oct. 17, a Kubota 4740 loader tractor and loader worth about $31,000 was taken from a farm off of County Road 4290.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Casey Jadwin, who investigated the crime, reported that on Oct. 25 two men were seen off of County Road 5490 using the tractor to push the stolen trailer and a red Dodge flatbed truck from mud.
Once the pickup truck and trailer were freed from the mud, the driver of the Dodge reportedly fled the scene and the other man fled into the woods. In the process of leaving the scene, several walnut logs and a Husqvarna chainsaw matching the description of one that had been stolen fell off the trailer.
After forest service agent Scott Heine arrived at the scene to investigate the theft of logs, the man who fled into the woods emerged, allegedly known to be an acquaintance of Patterson, and Heine interviewed a witness that identified the Dodge truck and provided a license plate number that indicated the truck was registered to Patterson’s parents.
Elijah Patterson had been known to use the truck, according to Jadwin.
During the recovery of the tractor, a black trailer that had been painted green was seen abandoned off of Forest Service Road 764, near where the logs had been stolen. The trailer, with the VIN number ground off, was identified by the owner as being the one that was stolen, and the recovery of a partial VIN number by patrol investigators was a match to the VIN number of the stolen trailer.
On Oct. 29, Howell County Sheriff’s Department investigator Will Riley discovered records showing Patterson had sold walnut logs to Midwest Walnut Co. in Willow Springs for about $2,500, and Patterson was reportedly seen on video surveillance footage driving the red Dodge pickup truck, pulling a trailer matching the stolen one.
Heine was also reportedly able to match cross section of a stump on forest service property with one of the logs sold to Midwest Walnut Co.
A warrant has been issued for Patterson with a bond of $10,000, according to court records.