On Thursday, the Clay County Sheriff's Department was able to return a stolen piece of heavy equipment from the woods and a stolen vehicle from a pond located next to a rental property where three men were arrested on various drug charges on May 12.
Thompson Thrift Construction, based in Terre Haute, reported the CAT 416C backhoe missing from an apartment complex construction site in southern Vigo County the weekend of May 6.
The Clay County Sheriff's Department discovered the backhoe 20 miles away set back in a dense wooded area located near the intersection of N. C.R. 500 W. and W. C.R. 200 N.
"When Sheriff Mike Heaton called to say they had found it and to bring a pair of boots to the site, not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I'd see what I saw," Director of Operations Henry Stadler told The Brazil Times. "The front tires were completely sunk in the mud at least three feet."
Early Thursday morning, the company brought in a large excavator to recover the equipment which is valued at $40,000.
"It's severely damaged, a total loss," Stadler said. "I want to thank the Clay County Sheriff's Department, and Sheriff Heaton, for all their cooperation and assistance in getting the backhoe back. This is the first time we've had something like this happen."
It's not unusual to discover heavy equipment of this type during drug and theft investigations, according to Sheriff Heaton.
"There's no real rhyme or reason why they steal anything," he said. "Sometimes it's a crime of convenience. They will take something like this to bury stolen merchandise, or for their personal use. But as to why this was taken, we don't know yet."
A 2001 Honda Accord, reported stolen from Macon, Georgia, was also discovered at the property, submerged in a pond.
"We have contacted authorities in Georgia," Heaton said. "They will notify the owner, or the insurance company if the claim has been made, that the vehicle has been located."
The items were discovered during the execution of a search warrant by federal authorities and members of the Clay County Sheriff's Department and the Clay City Police Department at the rural Cory residence on May 12th.
Samuel Duane Drake, 22, of Farmersburg, Ind., Stephen Hobart Hood, 25, and Joel Allen Childress, 24, both of Brazil, were arrested on various drug- related charges during the search.
Officers located various drugs, drug paraphernalia and some weapons at the residence, but evidence of possible stolen property required another search warrant be obtained.
It was during this second search of the area when information was gathered to help determine ownership of the backhoe and the vehicle. Once identified, officials started the recovery process with the property owner's permission.
In a telephone interview Friday, Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger said the investigation continues in this case and that any local charges stemming from evidence collected during the search warrant has yet to be determined or filed.