A Eudora man has been convicted of stealing items from a vehicle in Basehor last year. And because of prior theft convictions, the theft could be considered a felony, according to a prosecution official.
Billy Joe Johnson, 35, was found guilty of theft Tuesday following a two-day trial in Leavenworth County District Court. The jury acquitted him of burglary and two counts of attempted criminal use of a financial card, according to a news release from the Leavenworth County Attorney's Office.
The theft occurred Feb. 23, 2012.
Items were stolen from a woman's vehicle while she was working at a Dollar General store at 2404 N. 155th St. The victim reported her purse, wallet, credit cards, debit cards, driver’s license, Social Security card, Dollar General store keys and other personal items were stolen from her vehicle.
Basehor law enforcement officers started investigating the crime and began interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance video.
A cashier who was working that day recalled that two men came into the store, and one of the men attempted to use a check to purchase items. She denied the transaction because the man did not have or would not provide identification that matched the check he was trying to use. The man left the store and proceeded to the side of the building where the victim’s car was parked. The other man, left a minute later in the same direction, according to the news release.
The witness recalled that before the two men entered the store, she saw them drive into the parking lot in white truck and park on the same side of the building where the victim's vehicle was located. The witness also testified during the trial that she believed the two men who had tried to use the check left in the white truck.
Another witness who saw the truck described it as white Ford F-250, according to the release.
Officers with the Basehor police office began to follow leads to narrow down the suspects. The victim told officers that when she was canceling her credit cards with her banks, she was informed one of her cards was used at the local Sonic drive-in. Officers responded to Sonic for further investigation and found evidence of three attempts to use the victim’s card at that location. The suspects eventually paid cash for their food, according to the release.
The day after the crime occurred, a lieutenant with the Basehor Police Department was driving around the city looking for a white Ford F-250. He saw a truck matching the description backed into a parking stall at Bleachers Bar and Grill. He was able to determine the truck and its tag had been reported stolen. As officers were completed an inventory search of the vehicle, they found a Sonic paper bag with a receipt that matched the same amount of money involved in the attempted use of the victim’s financial card. They also found the victim’s ATM balance inquiry receipt that had been in her purse. It was dated Feb. 6, 2012.
Page 2 of 2 - At this point, the officers believed the truck was connected to the theft but still did not know the identity of the two men, according to the release.
It was not until a week after the theft occurred that officers gained another piece of evidence. On March 1, 2012, officers in Lawrence, were pursuing a stolen white Nissan Maxima. Officers were able to determine there were three occupants in the car.
Officers eventually abandoned the pursuit due to the risk. However, officers received calls that a white Nissan had crashed into a tree in the same area the chase had occurred. Officers apprehended one man at the scene. A woman was apprehended nearby. Johnson was found at the house of the man who'd been taken into custody at the scene, according to the release.
The woman reportedly told officers Johnson had been driving the vehicle. She said Johnson told the other man to grab a backpack before running away. The backpack reportedly contained identification cards from at least 12 people and items belonging to the employee at the Basehor Dollar General store.
The woman who had been apprehended in Lawrence explained that she believed the backpack belonged to Johnson because she had seen him with the bag the night before.
The case was turned over to the jury around 5 p.m. Tuesday for deliberations. The jury deliberated for about 3.5 hours before delivering a verdict.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 17.