Add a John Deere 110 tractor to the growing list of stolen construction equipment and tools.
It was stolen Sunday night, Nov. 15, from the maintenance shop compound at Sequim Bay State Park.
"We don't know how they got it out; it's pretty amazing," said Dave Howat, the park's construction and maintenance supervisor.
"It's a $40,000 tool and we're not going to get another one because the state stopped buying equipment. So it's a big deal in the construction and maintenance section," he said.
This latest theft follows that of at least six utility trailers stolen from work sites in the past 30 days, according to the North Peninsula Building Association.
Meanwhile, two search warrants led to one escaped suspect in the investigation of one of those thefts that was reported in the Nov. 18 Sequim Gazette.
Chris R. Ahlstedt was arrested Nov. 19 on North Barr Road in Agnew after Clallam County Sheriff's deputies and Sequim Police uncovered stolen goods, a marijuana growth and methamphetamine after serving the first warrant.
Ahlstedt was detained but kicked out the side window out of a cruiser car and escaped. Multiple agencies searched on foot and in the air, but he was not found and remains at large.
Anyone with information on Ahlstedt's whereabouts should contact the Sequim Police at 683-7227.
Sequim Police Officer Maris Turner said the utility trailer owned by Parry Construction was recovered off the 3000 block of Old Olympic Highway.
It was returned to the Parry family Monday morning.
Most of the stolen tools from inside the trailer also were recovered after authorities used the second warrant to search a construction site on Cedar Bend Lane where Ahlstedt was working.
He is wanted for first-degree malicious mischief, third-degree theft, third-degree escape, possession of stolen property and methamphetamine, trafficking stolen property and manufacturing marijuana.
Turner said there are no other suspects in the case at this time.
Tractor aided theft
At the state park, Howat said the tractor was parked next to a building in the shop compound.
"It was hidden because of a break-in three days before. They cut the locks and used the tractor to load and steal the lumber. So we moved the machine into a safer area, in theory."
The tractor might not be off the North Olympic Peninsula yet, Howat said.
"It's a John Deere 110 tractor with a (lid) on the bucket. It is almost 11/2 years old, with very low hours.
"We've pretty much covered all we can. We're just asking the public to keep their eyes open for the smallest John Deere tractor, if they hear anything or see it on eBay."
Howat said the thieves hit the park hit three times in a week, which is "pretty bold" because people live there.
Thieves hit a triple
The lumber storage area was hit Monday, Nov. 9, and Tuesday, Nov. 10, then early Sunday night, Nov. 15, when the backhoe was taken, Howat said.
"We used it at a storage area. They broke the fence and gates and broke the locks. Then they jump-started the John Deere and loaded the lumber.
"The next night they broke, in but there was no tractor, so they left. Then on Sunday they took the tractor," he said.
The vehicles are simple to operate, but the thieves have some heavy equipment knowledge because they pulled the fuses to silence the loud backup warning system, Howat said.
Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Ron Cameron said this isn't the first time the county has seen construction equipment theft.
'Brazen and confident'
In 2005, a lot of cases accumulated that ended in an arrest, he said.
"They are brazen and confident, for sure," Cameron said.
"The investigation continues, and we are working with the Sequim Police Department. So far we've only seen (the thefts) east of Port Angeles," he said.
These might be the work of a large, organized group or some obscure criminal, but the thefts have gotten bigger, Cameron said.
After Clallam County Sheriff's Sgt. Randy Pieper is finished compiling what was taken, they'll sit down and figure out what they can do, he said.
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