Theft spree involves motel, hardware store locally

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A 27-year-old Minnesota man went on a burglary and theft spree late last week, from Richland Center to Prairie du Chien, before he, another suspect and the loot were apprehended in Clermont, Iowa, according to area authorities.

Beginning during the evening hours Thursday, May 6, Richland Center Police Chief Billy Jones said, law enforcement started investigating reports of a man, later identified as Alex R. VanErp, of Faribault, Minn., who allegedly entered a silver 1998 Chevrolet pickup truck and took it without the owner’s consent. The truck was taken from a municipal lot in Richland Center. VanErp then reportedly drove the truck to Bindl Tire and Auto and abandoned it, according to a press release. He then entered a white 2009 Chevy Silverado K2500HD, which was unsecured and awaiting service at Bindl’s. VanErp drove the 2009 truck to The Driftless Hunter’s Outlet in Richland Center where, as observed on security cameras, he attached the truck to the door of the business with tow chains that are believed to have been stolen from Shawn’s Auto. Next, VanErp is said to have attempted to pull the door open with the truck. 

“The door, however, is heavily fortified and VanErp’s attempt to gain entry was unsuccessful,” the press release said.

Around the same time, the man can be seen on security camera footage from a different downtown Richland Center business entering an unlocked vehicle, from which he allegedly stole a handgun. 

The 2009 Silverado was later located abandoned in the Walmart parking lot. The driver, believed to be VanErp, can be seen entering a newer white Dodge Ram pickup with black rims, which was suspected to be involved in thefts that subsequently occurred in Prairie du Chien. 

On Friday May 7, at about 5:45 a.m., officers with the Prairie du Chien Police Department were dispatched to the Super 8 Motel for a reported theft. During their investigation, video surveillance showed a male and female suspect checking into the motel shortly before 12 a.m. on May 7. These two were later identified as VanErp and Aliza L. Burley, 19, also of Faribault, Minn. 

At check-in, the suspects were driving a white Dodge truck and pulling a flatbed trailer containing two tractors that authorities say were stolen from Simpson’s Tractor in Richland Center. In the next few hours, the two left the motel and returned with a covered trailer that clearly belonged to Nelson’s True Value of Prairie du Chien, a press release said. According to witness statements and video, VanErp transferred the tractors from the flatbed trailer into the enclosed True Value trailer. Once the tractors were transferred, VanErp reentered the motel lobby and removed cash from a drawer at the front desk area. He was then observed, in video footage, looking at the camera system present. He also removed a computer tower located at the front desk. VanErp eventually fled the motel and, according to witnesses, yelled Burley, “we got to get out of here.”

During the course of the Prairie du Chien Police Department investigation, True Value called to report a trailer stolen. Video from True Value showed the same individuals, who were involved in the Super 8 theft, removing the trailer and entering a fenced-in area at True Value.

An area wide alert was sent to law enforcement agencies. The Prairie du Chien Police Department had previously received an alert from the Richland Center Police Department and believed the two communities’ incidents were related. 

At about 10 a.m. May 7, Prairie du Chien Police were notified by the Fayette County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Department that they had located the suspect vehicle, stolen trailer, stolen tractors and both suspects at a John Deere implement in Clermont, Iowa. (A Prairie du Chien resident had observed the police department’s social media post and alerted authorities in Fayette County.)  After a brief foot pursuit and Taser deployment, both the suspects were arrested for numerous charges. 

During further investigation, authorities determined the same suspects removed an Alliant Energy trailer from the substation on Campion Boulevard in Prairie du Chien and later abandoned it in the Evergreen Cemetery.

Both VanErp and Burley are facing multiple charges in Wisconsin and Iowa. Some of these include: multiple counts of burglary, multiple counts of theft, drug possession charges, possession of firearm as a felon and interference with official acts. This investigation continues with Fayette County and Richland Center law enforcement assistance. 

Based on the amount of suspected stolen property found, we believe more agencies will be involved and more victims will be identified,” Prairie du Chien Police Chief Kyle Teynor stated.

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