Osceola County Sheriff's Office ties suspects to 33 break-ins throughout six counties

REED CITY – An arrest by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office during a recent business break-in has led to a breakthrough in various open cases, with the suspects likely connected to at least 33 business breaking and enterings in six counties.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating several business breaking and enterings throughout the past few months. In May, it was first reported Osceola County businesses including the Rose Golf Club, Mineral Springs Pizza Pub and Grill, Tustin Trails Golf Course and Duddles Tree Farm had been broken into.

According to police, neighboring counties – Lake, Wexford, Mecosta, Missaukee and Clare – also have experienced numerous breaking and enterings at businesses. Osceola County Sheriff’s Office detectives have been working with investigators from those counties and the Michigan State Police, believing these burglaries were connected. Through tips received from Silent Observer and investigative efforts, detectives were able to develop leads to suspects in the area.

"It’s always good we work well with the other agencies, and being a smaller agency, if we don’t combine our efforts, we don’t get the manpower out there," said Osceola County Sheriff Jim Crawford. "We’ve done some extensive searches for these people, such as all-night patrols, and we’ve worked hard."

The months-long investigation included lots of overtime, unmarked cars and even placing a tracker on a suspect vehicle. Although it didn't lead to an arrest, a tip received in June helped steer the investigation in the right direction, Crawford said. However, the biggest break in the case came earlier this week when the suspects struck again.

Around 4:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 10, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to an alarm at Hoagland’s Hardware in Tustin. Upon arrival, the officers met with an employee of the business, who informed them two males had been seen leaving the business. Police determined money had been stolen.

Additional officers arrived on scene, surrounding the area to search for the suspect and additional evidence. They soon discovered a male subject lying in a vehicle parked behind a business in Tustin. Police determined the man was likely connected to their investigation and transported him to the Osceola County Jail.

“One of the suspects we tracked with a dog for awhile and lost it, and the other was about a block away and had crawled in a vehicle and laid down,” Crawford said.

The scene and surrounding area were processed for evidence and the suspect vehicle impounded. Detectives from Osceola County then questioned the suspect for further information. The individual caught was one of the suspects who had been developed from the investigation into the previous break-ins at businesses in the area. Detectives from Lake County and the Michigan State Police also questioned the suspect in relation to breaking and enterings in their area as well.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office along with Lake, Wexford, Mecosta, Missaukee and Clare counties, along with the Michigan State Police, continue to investigate these individuals. A warrant has been sought for the man in custody, said Osceola County Undersheriff Justin Halladay. A warrant also will be sought for the suspect's partner, who has not yet been apprehended.

Right now, police have identified more than 30 break-ins that seem to be connected to the individuals, but law enforcement officials estimate the numbers could climb to more than 50 break-ins. While the main thing stolen during the break-ins was cash, earlier reports state electronics, computers, cash registers and safes were stolen from the businesses.

Halladay said the duo is likely to face numerous charges, including breaking and entering charges and possible safe-cracking and weapons charges.

"The information points to the man in custody being responsible for the recent Tustin incident, and the information we’ve gathered through our investigations also point to a connection between him and his partner and many other break-ins," Halladay said.

The suspect in custody is scheduled to be arraigned on charges Thursday, Aug. 13, in Osceola County's 77th District Court.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to come forward with any information that could be relevant to the investigation, such as unreported business breaking and enterings. People with tips can contact the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at (231) 832-2288.