Community efforts help police locate a suspect in a theft case

SALEM – Washington County Sheriff Brent Miller thanked the quick action of property owners who helped law enforcement officers locate and arrest a man who had broken into a barn and stole items.

Elijah Engleking

Elijah S. Engleking, 33, of Salem, was arrested on July 22, on charges of dealing and possession of meth, dealing and possession of heroin, burglary and carrying a handgun without a license with a prior conviction, operating a vehicle as a habitual traffic offender, theft and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia.

“The victims, in this case, caught the theft in progress and immediately contacted authorities. In addition, they were able to collect critical information that led to the suspect’s arrest. Their efforts helped law enforcement and we appreciate it,” said Sheriff Miller.

The investigation began when the victims reported the theft from their Branaman Road property. One of the property owners caught the theft in progress when she went to the family’s barn around 7 a.m. on July 22.

She called 911 after she confronted the male as he was driving away in a red Ford Ranger pickup. The woman was able to take photos of the truck as it left the scene.

The victims posted a photo of the truck and information about the theft on Facebook and the Sheriff’s Department began receiving tips. One caller said the truck had been at the Salem Food Mart earlier that day. An officer reviewed the store’s surveillance video and determined the driver, truck, and a load of scrap metal, all matched the photos captured by the victim.

“In this instance, the victims posted information on Facebook, which led to several tips coming in. These actions also helped to find and secure the suspect,” said Sheriff Miller.

Officers received information that the Ford Ranger involved belonged to one of the victim’s neighbors.

The woman told police that Engleking came over before daylight and asked to borrow her truck, which she allowed him to do. She told police there was nothing in the bed of the truck when it left her property.

The woman identified it as her truck in the surveillance video and confirmed the man in the video was Engleking. A short while later, officers located Engleking on Hickory Avenue. The truck had a different license plate and the bed of the truck was empty.

Both Engleking and a female passenger, Heidi Powers, were arrested.

Heidi Powers

Powers, 38, also of Salem, faces charges of dealing and possession of meth, dealing and possession of cocaine or a narcotic drug, unlawful possession of a syringe, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

When patting down Engleking officers found he was carrying a holster. Officers later located a Rock Island Armory 1911 .45 caliber pistol under the passenger seat of the truck.

Officers also found several catalytic converters in the truck.

A search warrant was issued and during the search, officers located numerous items of drug paraphernalia, meth, heroin, and syringes, some of which were filled and uncapped.

When the truck was returned to its rightful owner, she identified several areas of damage, including scratches and dents from the scrap Engleking had piled in the bed.

Engleking appeared in court for his initial hearing on July 23, 2021.

He remains incarcerated at the Washington County Detention Center. A pre-trial hearing has been set for August 23, in the Washington County Superior Court.