Burglary case highlights importance of preparation

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Detective Jim Tramel of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office displays some of the stolen goods allegedly found at Keith Churchill’s home during a Sept. 21, 2012, search of the residence in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Kemph)
In light of the recent breakthrough in a serial burglary investigation, Rutherford County law enforcement officials are encouraging residents to inventory valuable items in case their home is ever targeted by criminals.

“We always stress how important it is to have the serial numbers found on electronic equipment, weapons and other types of property,” said Steve Brown, a detective with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.

Brown said residents should conduct a thorough inventory of items, especially those that a thief would consider a hot commodity, so there is documentation for a burglary investigation if needed.

By documenting serial numbers and taking pictures of items like jewelry, expensive art or heirlooms, as well as individual photos of each room, Brown said detectives are better able to resolve these types of cases.

“Having this type of information just makes the case move quicker,” he said, noting it also provides detectives proof of ownership when stolen property is recovered.

Officials with the Murfreesboro Police Department agree, noting serial numbers are used to report stolen property to the National Crime Information Center, a national database of criminal justice information.

“Serial numbers are crucial,” said Sgt. Kyle Evans, public information officer with the Police Department.

When a piece of property is reported stolen, dispatchers in the Communications Section enter “the make, model and serial number into the NCIC computer,” Evans said.

Without that information, he said, it becomes much more difficult to recover property because serial numbers are also used to track the sale and purchase of stolen goods at pawn shops, which are required to report all transactions with 48 hours to law enforcement agencies.

“This is about the only way to determine ownership,” Evans said, in reference to how stolen property is recovered from pawn shops.

“Inventory is very important in the event of a crime, or other loss such as fire or other natural disaster,” he said.

He said the Police Department offers a free online inventory program, Leads Online Report It, to help residents prepare for the unexpected.

“This is confidential and can include pictures, descriptions, and serial numbers – all for free,” Evans said.

If an item is stolen, the program will scan websites like eBay for that piece of property, he said.

“It also checks all of the pawn shops in Murfreesboro for stolen items,” he said. “If the item is pawned, we can then return the item to the owner, and in most cases, make an arrest.”

The comments come on the heels of the recent arrest of 31-year-old Keith Churchill, who is accused of breaking into numerous homes in the Middle Tennessee area.

More than $25,000 worth of stolen property was recovered Sept. 21 after Churchill was apprehended following a crash during a two-county pursuit involving the Sheriff’s Office.

Churchill has since been charged with two counts of felony theft in connection with the case.

He is also facing charges of evading and resisting arrest, as a result of the pursuit that ended after crashing his vehicle near the intersection of Couchville Pike and Weakley Lane near the Wilson County line.

“Items in his vehicle linked him to one burglary that occurred in our county,” said Jim Tramel, a detective with the Sheriff’s Office. “Other items in the vehicle led to a burglary that had just occurred in Wilson County.”

He said the property found inside his vehicle was brought back to the Sheriff’s Office, where detectives from Rutherford and Wilson counties, as well as the Police Department, identified property that had been reported stolen in 10 burglaries.

During a subsequent search of his home on Pecan Ridge Drive, he said authorities also discovered numerous stolen items, including electronics, instruments, jewelry, antiques, guns and collectable knives.

“We have been able to connect him to 13 burglaries at this time,” said Tramel, who is with the Sheriff’s Office.

Tramel said many of those items were stolen during burglaries that occurred in Rutherford and Wilson counties, some of which date back to June.

“We were under the assumption the same person was involved in several of these burglaries,” Brown said, “but we had no idea it would snowball the way it did.”

In total, authorities believe Churchill is responsible for nearly 30 burglaries.

Some of the property recovered from his home, however, has yet to be returned to its rightful owner due to lack of identification.

Capt. David Haley, who is a part of the Investigative Services Division, said all of the law enforcement agencies would continue working to identify and return the recovered property, noting the detectives and deputies involved in the case should be commended.

“Investigators have been working (on this case) for several weeks,” he said. “This was a joint effort in which leads were developed and agencies worked together, and for that, we are all thankful.”
Read more from:
Burglary, Crime, Keith Churchill, Leads Online Report It, MPD, Murfreesboro, NCIC, RCSO, Rutherford County, Wilson County
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