Monday, March 29, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LI): Massive search underway--but for what?

The March 11 and March 18 issues of the Newton County Times arrived together a few days ago, and both report on a massive search of the Mt. Judea area property owned by Ricky Middleton, the topic of several recent posts, such as the ones here and here. The March 11 story features a rare color photo of the "command post" for the search, which is using 50 Army National Guard, DEA, state and local law enforcement officers. The sheriff is quoted as saying that authorities were "geared up for two weeks, but would be on site as long as it takes" to execute the warrants for stolen property. Another photo shows a helicopter associated with a "counter-drug unit of the Army National Guard." Also involved in the search were "military trucks and trailers loaded with earth moving equipment, other types of military vehicles, and men riding four wheelers. There was also a black painted SUV with a satellite dish mounted on its roof."

The sheriff is also quoted as saying that the search is not limited to the Middleton's property but will extend "wherever information leads them." On the first day of the search, officers recovered a log skidder that had been stolen from a property in the community of Lurton. The sheriff said that Ricky Middleton has been arrested on a bench warrant for theft by receiving and altering VIN numbers.

The March 18 paper follows up with more news of the search, along with a full complement of law and order stories. Regarding the search, the caption for a color photo of pick up trucks, bulldozers and four wheelers indicates that excavation equipment was being used in the search. A story right next to the photo suggests a link between the search and the disappearance of 20-year-old Josh Middleton about five years ago. The report indicates that law enforcement officers are also seeking from the search evidence to assist in investigating the man's disappearance. The sheriff is quoted as indicating that a great deal of property has been recovered in the search, but it is not clear how much of it has been stolen. Among items found that are known to be stolen are a buried vehicle. A trailer filled with tools and merchandise was also recovered.

The massive search has also been extended to property that had been owned by the late Robert Middleton, presumably a relative of Ricky and David Middleton. There, the law enforcement officers recovered some brush mowers that had reportedly been stolen from a neighboring city, and from Missouri. In addition, a truck and boat had been buried on that property.

Other front-page headlines include these:
  • Motion made to joinder Middleton cases
  • Criminal cases recently adjudicated in Newton County Circuit Court

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