By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Observations by a patrolling Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department deputy were crucial to solving a residential burglary this week while a suspicious person in a county resident’s back yard led deputies to a man hiding in the woods with some methamphetamine.
The residential burglary occurred early Wednesday morning in the 7000 block of U.S. Highway 11. At about the same time the burglary was occurring that morning, Deputy Kristy Johnson passed by a car parked in a ditch in the same area, said Chief Deputy Shane Tucker. Johnson checked out the vehicle and could hear noises coming from the woods nearby and remembered seeing hand prints in the car’s condensation, but could not find anyone nearby, Tucker said.
Since the scene seemed suspicious, Johnson parked her patrol vehicle down the road at a vantage point and turned off all the lights to see if anyone would return to the vehicle, Tucker said. A short time later Johnson could hear a commotion coming from the area of the vehicle, so she headed back to the vehicle in the ditch. Tucker said when she arrived she found 29-year-old Carrington Mason of 111 Myrtle Dr., near the vehicle.
While Johnson was talking with Mason, she noticed several things about the scene that piqued her interest, including two small chain saws, a flat screen television and a car battery with cut wires still attached in or near the car, Tucker said. Johnson also heard another person rustling in the woods, she asked Mason who it was and demanded he come from out of the woods, the chief deputy said. Tucker said the second suspect complied and was identified as 30-year-old Curtis Jones of 75 Hidden Hills Drive East.
The deputy asked the two men what they were doing in the area and why they had the chain saws and other equipment, the chief deputy said. Tucker said the men told the deputy that they were preparing to head to New York to help victims of the recent hurricane when they ran off the road into the ditch, but that story did not add up since the chain saws the men had were too small for a big job. However, having nothing on which she could arrest them, the two men went on their way, Tucker said.
The inconsistencies of the incident prompted Johnson to call her supervisor, Capt. Kelvin Stanford, later that morning and relay what happened, Tucker said. Stanford recalled that an elderly resident in the same area reported his home had been broken into and several items matching what Johnson had seen had been stolen, Tucker said.
Tucker said the man recalled being awakened by some noises during night, but discounted the noises as being part of a dream. However, when he awoke at daybreak, he noticed several items missing from his home, including his wallet which was in his bedroom, Tucker said.
Using the information on what Johnson had recalled seeing during her interaction with Jones and Mason, the two men were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday respectively during traffic stops and charged with residential burglary and vehicular burglary, Tucker said. Most of the stolen items were recovered, except for the cash that was in the victim’s wallet and a cordless phone, Tucker said.
“(Johnson) did a really good job documenting everything,” Tucker said. “It all worked out really good, and it was a good team effort to get these guys in custody.”
A separate incident that occurred on Thursday involved a county resident on Joe Flemming Road reporting a strange man in her back yard, but when the deputy arrived to check out the complaint, the man was gone, Tucker said. About an hour later the woman called back to report the same man had returned to her back yard, this time the deputy arrived and saw the man in the back yard, Tucker said.
The deputy called for the man to come to him, but the suspect fled into the woods, the chief deputy said. Tucker said the deputy recalled receiving a report that a man fitting the same description as the suspect was wanted by the U.S. Marshal’s Service for a probation violation warrant with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The deputy gave chase, and at one point saw him ditch a duffle bag containing a small amount of methamphetamine that was recovered, Tucker said.
A K-9 unit was called out to help with the chase and after 30 minutes of looking, the suspect was caught hiding behind a fallen tree in the woods, the chief deputy said. Tucker said the man, identified as 36-year-old John Lee Stockstill with an unknown address, was taken into custody without further incident and charged with possession of a controlled substance, disorderly conduct and the probation warrant.
Tucker said it is suspected Stockstill was living in the woods at that time.