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Gresham police round up suspected utility trailer thieves

by: Contributed graphic, Linda Marie Shearer

Gresham police arrested a woman accused of stealing, stripping and selling as many as 1,000 utility trailers over two years on Saturday, March 3.

Linda Marie Shearer, 40, is being held at the Clackamas County Jail on a warrant for first-degree aggravated theft, coercion, tampering with a witness and seven counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Bail is $75,000.

A Multnomah County sheriff's deputy on Wednesday, Feb. 28, arrested her alleged accomplice, Andrew George Culbert, 40, on a Clackamas County warrant for charges of first-degree theft and eight counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He has since been released on his own recognizance.

A Clackamas County grand jury indicted the two in late February on charges related to a utility-trailer theft ring that investigators believe has been operating for two years, said Det. Jim Strovink, spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

Also, for two months, the duo allegedly based their operation in a remote area of Damascus.

It all began to unravel on July 9, 2006, when Gresham police officer Jim Seymour pulled the two over on a traffic stop at Highway 26 and Stone Road. An investigation ensued and police discovered three utility trailers in Damascus. One had been stripped and repainted. Another contained a portable DJ booth stolen from a Gresham man two years ago.

Here's how the theft ring worked. The two drove around neighborhoods looking for unsecured utility trailers - the kind with wooden sides usually filled with lawn clippings, mowers and weed whackers. If a utility trailer caught their fancy, they'd jot its location and description down in a notebook, return to steal it and cross it off the list.

'A lot of people don't secure their trailers,' Strovink said. People park them next to the garage or in a side yard. The suspects would allegedly hook up to the trailers, 'and down the road they'd go,' Strovink said.

They'd strip it, repaint and replace any wood on it with wood stolen from construction sites. Then they'd post them on Craigslist, selling up to five utility trailers a day, Strovink said.

Police seized the notebook, which Deputy Scott King used to link the crossed-out trailers with Clackamas County theft reports. King presented the evidence to the district attorney's office, which last week secured an indictment against the two suspects. Last Wednesday, police arrested Culbert, but officers were still on the lookout for Schearer. Gresham police arrested her at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Northeast 192nd Avenue and Halsey Street, said Sgt. Teddi Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Gresham Police Department.