Two charged in theft case

Cris Ritchie — Editor

October 4, 2013

HAZARD—Authorities with the Perry County Sheriff’s Office charged two people Thursday less than three hours after receiving a theft complaint from a local business.

Deputy Jerry Burns said the complaint was made at 8 a.m. by an employee at the Save-A-Lot at Grand Vue Plaza, reporting the theft of more than $750 in soft drinks. Burns said the perpetrator had taken the drinks from a small opening in the store’s rear loading dock the previous night, adding the caller reported the perpetrator might have been a former employee.

“They suspected it was a subject that used to work there that got fired,” Burns said.

While Burns, along with deputies Kevin Day and Shannon Woods, were en route to follow up on a lead in the Hardburly community, they spotted a vehicle matching the description of one owned by the subject noted earlier, Burns said. Deputies performed a traffic stop, and Burns noted there was a large tub of 20-ounce soda bottles in the back, while the back end was also squatted down as if carrying a heavy load in the trunk.

“We popped the trunk, and that’s when we noticed seven big car batteries and 12 hubcaps,” Burns said.

Dispatchers back at the sheriff’s office were able to make contact with the owner of the Grand Vue Auto Sales, which is located next to the Save-A-Lot, who confirmed that several batteries and hubcaps had gone missing from vehicles there, valued at $680.

Burns said the subject inside the vehicle, identified as 54-year-old Johnny Gibson of Hardburly, was read his rights and later admitted to taking the merchandise from the store as well as the car lot next door. Gibson was arrested at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, according to the arrest citation.

A second person, 35-year-old Gail Ann Wilson of Hazard, was also arrested. Burns said Wilson was acting as Gibson’s driver during the thefts. Though both she and Gibson said she was unaware of what Gibson was doing, Burns said there wasn’t any way she could not have known.

“Obviously, you see a guy grabbing hubcaps and pops from a store, you kind of know he’s doing wrong,” he said.

Both Gibson and Wilson were charged with two counts of felony theft over $500 and lodged in the Kentucky River Regional Jail.

Burns said all of the items taken from the auto sales were recovered, though only about $70 worth of the soft drinks were found. Gibson was carrying $257 in cash at the time of his arrest, and he noted that Gibson had likely sold most of the items taken from the grocery store.