Break in battery theft ring; master mind still at large
CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -- After four months, Cleveland detectives get a major break in a battery theft ring investigation. Now, they're asking for the public's help locating the main criminal behind it.
The investigation surrounding the "battery bandit" began in August, after multiple businesses in Bradley, Hamilton and Meigs counties were hit.
In Cleveland, Steven Williams Construction took the brunt of it.
"Just in batteries, cables, damage to the machines and parts, probably in the $50,000 range," he told Channel 3 in August.
About six weeks later, police arrested Scottie Higgins, 19, in connection with the theft ring. However, investigators believe David Keith Jr. (D.J.) Farris, a convicted felon and the man who helped raise Higgins, is the master mind behind it all.
"He expected or wanted Scottie to take the fall for this, because he knew Scottie didn't have a criminal record and would get a slap on the wrist," explains Cleveland Police Detective Matt Jenkins.
It would be months before there was a break in the case.
"We had a lot of lies and a lot of misinformation that we spent the better part of four months unraveling," Jenkins says.
The one thing investigators knew was the stolen batteries were sold at a home near Collegedale. Channel 3 stopped by Monday to talk with the Terry Evans, the homeowner.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Evans tells Channel 3.
He says he's never been questioned by police, and that he's sold scrap parts to recycling centers for years; but, he would not answer anymore questions.
"I'd rather not discuss my business with you," Evans says. "I don't deal with you."
He has not been charged with a crime, but police say he was little help to them.
"Whether or not you agree with the way the man conducts business, the way he did conduct his business definitely made it a lot harder for us to investigate our case," says Jenkins.
Late last week, Farris's wife Anna was taken into custody in connection with the battery theft ring. She's charged with theft over $10,000 and vandalism.
However, officers want D.J. in custody before they can close this case for good.
"D.J. carried the bolt cutters, he cut the wires. He's a big guy, he lifted the batteries," Jenkins says.
Officers say Farris was able to elude deputies late last week, but is likely still in the Bradley County area. He drives a white, Ford 4-door Explorer.
If you can help locate Farris, call the Cleveland Police Department at (423) 476-7511.