By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (November 15, 2016) – More than a dozen counts of burglary of a motor vehicle, five counts of credit or debit card abuse, theft of property, forgery, possession of marijuana and methamphetamine, theft of firearms and possession of stolen property… The list of charges against a local couple who confessed to a string of burglaries across multiple counties is a long one.
Officials say Bree Christine Stephens, 27, and Jeffery Don Champion, 30, targeted unlocked vehicles, walked away with valuables and purchased items with stolen debit and credit cards.
She is being held on a combined bond of more than $230,000 and his bond adds up to more than $340,000k, according to records at the Erath County Jail.
The couple traveled many miles searching for targets, and didn’t have to put much effort into their crimes, according to Investigator Kevin Fincher with the Stephenville Police Department.
“They tried to find good neighborhoods,” Fincher said, adding Champion would walk along residential streets, checking automobile doors and entering those left unlocked. “They had free reign.”
In addition to electronics, firearms and other items, the thieves pocketed checkbooks, wallets, credit cards, personal identification and social security cards.
Fincher said multiple agencies were pursuing leads relating to car burglaries within their jurisdictions when cooperation between departments helped break the cases. He said Eastland officials had entered a BOLO, “or be on the lookout,” for a couple wanted in the area for crimes that occurred on November 7.
“We were provided a photo of the car and the suspect, which matched our suspects,” Fincher said.
Meanwhile, the couple traveled across counties, upping the charges along the way.
Information released by the Clifton Police Department says Stephens and Champion’s luck ran out when they targeted a victim inside their department’s jurisdiction. The duo alleged stole the wallet from a car in Clifton on November 10, ringing up credit card charges and leaving a paper trail across Hamilton and Erath Counties.
Investigators traced activity on the victim’s stolen credit card to one business where video surveillance was obtained of the suspects allegedly using it to make a purchase. Stephens and Champion were identified and arrested in Hico without incidence on Thursday, November 10.
While recent activity brought an end to the crime spree, the criminal episode spanned a few months, with the couple amassing a stockpile of pilfered possessions. A cache of items was seized during an execution of a search warrant on the duo’s Stephenville home, and Fincher said the loot almost filled two pickup trucks.
He said Champion is from the local area, but Stephens, who is from Austin, moved to Stephenville to go to school.
Fincher also said law enforcement officials had “good information” on the couple’s involvement in the rash of burglaries, including surveillance video showing their use of stolen credit cards. With the evidence stacked against them, the suspects reportedly confessed while being interviewed by police.
The suspects reportedly admitted involvement in more than 90 car burglaries in Abilene, Cisco, Brownwood, Gorman, Cross Plains, Deleon, Dublin, Eastland, Hico, Stephenville, Clariette, Bluff Dale, Meridian and Clifton.
The evidence room at Stephenville Police Department contains a mountain of evidence that will be compared to reports filed by local victims and those in neighboring counties.
In a press release following the couple’s arrest, the Eastland Police Department said several reports of multiple car burglaries were made on Saturday, November 7.
In early October, The Flash reported seven reports from Stephenville Police Department involving 21 motor vehicles.
Police across the region are reminding citizens to always lock their motor vehicles and remove all valuable from sight.