By COREY NOLES
Statesman Staff Writer
BLOOMFIELD, Mo. - Two individuals are behind bars after being caught stealing automobile parts from Stites Concrete just off of Hwy. 60 on the edge of Dexter.
The two men were Thomas Burris of Williamsville, Mo. and Rodney Green of Poplar Bluff.
Each has been charged with one count of the Class C felony of tampering in the first degree for knowingly altering a black Mercedes Benz 300.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Stoddard County Sheriff's Deputy Travis Stafford observed a dark passenger car pull out of the entrance to Stites Concrete on County Road 517 on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 1:01 a.m.
Stafford followed the vehicle westbound on Hwy. 60 and pulled them over when he noticed the vehicle swerving from side to side. Burris, the driver, was covered in mud and his hands were covered in dirt, Stafford said. The passenger, Green, was also covered in mud "as if he had been lying on the ground."
Stafford asked Burris to come to his vehicle and noticed thorns and grass stuck to his back and pants. When asked about the mud, Burris said he had pulled over by a church to use the bathroom.
When Stafford advised Burris that he had seen him pull out of Stites Concrete and that there was no church there, he changed his story and said he had been driving around some country roads before stopping.
In a consented search of the vehicle, Stafford noticed several catalytic converters that were wet and covered in mud. Laying on top of the converters was a cordless saw that was also covered in mud.
When asked about the origin of the converters, Burris said someone in Sikeston had given them to him.
Stafford informed Burris that he knew the converters were stolen from the cars parked at Stites Concrete. He then asked if Burris would like to return the property and see if the owner wished to press charges or if he "wanted to continue to lie about everything."
After a moment, Burris admitted that he had stolen the converters from the cars parked closest to the road. Burris also offered to repay the owner for the damages to the vehicles.
Green denied any involvement despite also being covered in mud and having a muddy flashlight in his coat pocket as well as a muddy saw blade in his pants pocket.
Stafford contacted Mark Stites and, after advising him of the situation, Stites stated that he did want to pursue charges against the individuals.
Both men were arrested and taken to the Stoddard County Jail where they remain in lieu of a $20,000 cash-only bond. Both are scheduled for arraignment before Judge Joe. Z. Satterfield today, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.
Catalytic converters have become an attractive target for thieves across the nation.
With the price of precious metals skyrocketing, thieves are helping themselves to catalytic converters that contain enough platinum, palladium or rhodium to make it worth the risk to cut it from the underbelly of a vehicle.
Catalytic converters are devices that reduce pollution-causing emissions. Since 1975, all vehicles produced in the United States must have a catalytic converter as part of the exhaust system. The precious metals inside act as catalysts; when hot exhaust enters the converter, a chemical reaction occurs that renders toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, into less harmful emissions.
Stolen catalytic converters are sold to scrap yards for around $100 to $150, and when you consider the current prices for precious metals you can understand the demand. Rhodium sells for roughly $9,500 an ounce, while platinum pays at about $2,000.
Replacement of a stolen catalytic converter can run anywhere from $300 to $1,000, depending upon the make and model of the vehicle.
Nationwide Insurance recently published a list of ways motorists can deter converter thieves, including:
1. Always park in well-lit areas.
2. At shopping centers and other similar parking lots, park close the entrance of the building, or near the access road where there's a lot of traffic.
3. If you own or work at a business or factory, park within a fenced area that's busy during the day and secured at night.
4. Engrave your license plate number on the converter to make it traceable. This can act as a catalytic converter theft deterrent and help with local police investigations.
5. Purchase a vehicle security system, and make sure its set to triggered with just the slightest motion.
6. Visit a local muffler shop and have the converter secured to the vehicle's frame with a couple of pieces of hardened steel welded to the frame.
7. Check out the different types of catalytic converter theft deterrent systems at your local auto parts store or on the Internet.