GPS leads to alleged thief

Published 1:17 pm Saturday, February 21, 2015

By Cal Bryant
Special to The Tidewater News

Technology helped law enforcement agencies in two states track down an alleged thief.

John Wayne Fowler, 53, of 14250 Plank Road, Courtland, has been arrested and charged with the theft of an ATV owned by S.T. Wooten Corporation, a company currently working on the US 13/158 road improvement project in Hertford and Gates counties.

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan said the ATV was stolen two weeks ago from an area near Winton used by S.T. Wooten to store its equipment.

Hertford County Sheriff’s Deputy John Parker investigated the theft and learned that the stolen vehicle contained a GPS (Global Positioning System). That unit works in the case of the Wooten operation by helping to guide heavy equipment operators. Additionally, since GPS units are in are in constant operation, they also coordinate their exact location with GPS satellites in outer space.

“That’s what happened in this case,” said Vaughan. “We were able to accurately track the location of the ATV by using a GPS satellite.”

Accompanied by Wooten supervisor George Watts, Parker followed the technological lead across the state line to Southampton County and the residence on Plank Road.

“At that point, we contacted the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office; they obtained a search warrant, and found Wooten’s ATV at that location,” Vaughan stated. “The Southampton deputies made the arrest. Mr. Fowler waived extradition and we went to Courtland on Feb. 13 to pick him up.”

Vaughan said Fowler faces charges of larceny of a motor vehicle. He posted a $10,000 bond and was released.

The ATV, valued at $15,000, is back in the possession of S.T. Wooten Corp.

Vaughan added that the Southampton deputies discovered other items at Fowler’s residence, reportedly stolen in Northampton County, North Carolina, and Petersburg.

“I feel fairly certain there will be other charges lodged against Mr. Fowler by law enforcement officials in those two jurisdictions,” Vaughan said.

“I would like to thank the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance in our case of the stolen ATV. This case was very unique as it shows how advances in technology are able to assist law enforcement agencies in solving crime.”