Police seeking suspects in string of burglaries

By Abby Morris-Frye
star staff

  Police believe they may have a lead in a string of auto burglaries which targeted cars parked at three different churches during church services on Sunday.
  According to reports, police were first dispatched to the residence of Barbara Savage, 161 W.M. Savage Rd. shortly before 1 p.m. on Sunday on a report of a vehicle being burglarized. Savage told officers that her purse had been stolen from her vehicle while she was attending services at Fairview Baptist Church, 585 Watauga Rd.
  "The purse was located in the trunk, but the trunk area was made accessible by opening the back seat," said Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Chad Grindstaff. Savage told the officer that her purse contained her check book along with her identification, personal papers and prescription medication.
  At approximately 1:30, Grindstaff was dispatched to Biltmore Baptist Church, 1181 Bristol Hwy., in reference to additional auto burglaries.
  Upon arrival, Grindstaff spoke with Michelle Sluder Foust, 2021 Ridgefield Rd., who said that while she was attending church, someone entered her 1995 Ford Mustang and stole her purse. "Mrs. Foust stated she arrived for the service at 10 a.m. and when she came back out she found her purse to be missing," Grindstaff said.
  Foust reported to the officer that her purse contained approximately $40 in cash and her bank card as well as her driver's license and other personal papers.
  Foust's father, Charlie Sluder, 109 Aviation Dr., also told the officer that someone had entered his Chevrolet Suburban, which was also parked at the church while he attended services, and had stolen a portable television/DVD player.
  Whitney Odom, 155 Betterly Place, whose vehicle was also parked at Biltmore Baptist Church, reported to Grindstaff that her vehicle had been burglarized as well. She said that her Nokia cellular phone had been stolen from her Nissan Altima.
  A fourth vehicle at the church was also broken into. Suzanne McKinney, 612 West E St., reported to CCSD Deputy Ivan Sluder later in the day on Sunday that her vehicle had been broken into while it was parked at the church and a compact disc holder containing eight compact discs had been stolen.
  Then, on Monday, a woman told CCSD Inv. Johnny Blankenship that her vehicle was broken into while it was parked at Sinking Creek Church, on the Elizabethton Highway, Sunday evening during church services. Terri Wiseman, 1668 Powder Branch Rd., told Blankenship that her purse containing her checks, credit cards and ATM card was stolen from her Chevrolet Avalanche.
  According to Elizabethton Police Department reports, Wiseman informed Carter County Bank on Monday morning that her checks had been stolen.
  Shortly before 11 a.m. on Monday, officers of the EPD were dispatched to Carter County Bank's Pinecrest Branch on the Milligan Highway in reference to a subject attempting to pass a stolen check.
  Tammy Street, a teller at the bank, reported to officers that a male subject approximately 26-28 years of age and standing approximately five feet, seven inches tall walked into the bank around 10:30 a.m. and tried to cash a check for $750 that had been written on Wiseman's account.
  The teller told police that Wiseman had called the bank that morning and reported her checks as stolen, and when she saw that the check was from Wiseman's account, the teller became suspicious.
  "Ms. Street stated that she attempted to stall the male subject, who identified himself as Michael Barrett, while she and Branch Manager Irene Jones called 911, but he became suspicious and left the bank, leaving his Bristol YMCA identification card and the check," states EPD Ptl. Michael McIntosh in his report.
  According to McIntosh's report, employees of the bank were able to follow the male subject to the parking lot and gave police a description of the vehicle he got into as a passenger along with the vehicle's tag number.
  Foust told the Star on Tuesday that police had informed her that they had suspects in the incident.
  "Deputy Chad Grindstaff of the Carter County Sheriff's Department said the debit card was used at a Food Lion store in Johnson City at 12:30 p.m. to purchase three cartons of Marlboro cigarettes costing a total of $87," Foust said. "The Food Lion manager reviewed the security camera tape and released it to Sheriff's Department investigators."