By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Police recover stolen custom rods, motorcycle
Two of the vehicles stolen from the house of a Manteca dead man that were recovered by law enforcement. - photo by Contributed
It was the theft of a dead man’s passion that prompted an all out effort by law enforcement officers to right the wrong this week.

Custom hot rods and a motorcycle valued at nearly $350,000, stolen from a Manteca residence sometime last Sunday night following the owner’s death, were recovered on Friday through the concentrated effort of members of the Delta Regional Auto Theft Team (DELTARAT).

Detectives worked many overtime hours to break the case within a week of the theft from a ranchette home in the 700 block of West Louise Avenue after the home had been sealed by coroner’s tape.

Lead detective in the investigation, Stephen Schluer, said Saturday that only one of the six stolen vehicles remains outstanding expecting it to be recovered in days from a location in the north Bay Area.  That vehicle is a 1940 Ford Deluxe believed to have been sold to someone living near the coast.

Detectives Schluer and Robert Brandi credited newspaper and TV news agencies with prompting phone calls from the public with information on the investigation. The Manteca Bulletin carried the story with three pictures on the front page.  Two of the calls turned into valuable leads that took officers into rural and central Tracy locations.

Witnesses reported having seen several subjects around the missing cars and running up their engines in a dirt lot near a shopping center in Tracy where a store security camera captured the activity.  The video tape also showed the presence of a raised Ford F-150 that appeared to be involved with the stolen vehicles, Detective Schluer said.

Auto theft task force officers immediately notified Tracy Police to be on the lookout for the truck within 30 minutes Tracy officer Keith Hooks located the vehicle at about 1 p.m. in central Tracy and initiated a traffic stop detaining the driver.   DELTARAT detective Brandi responded to the scene and requested the driver to go to the police department with him for an interview.

The questioning was conducted at the Tracy Police Department by Detective Schluer as other members of the auto theft unit responded to Tracy from throughout the county ready to serve a search warrant to find the vehicles.  The warrant was not necessary as the subject agreed that officers could search his property in central Tracy where the $140,000 Arlen Ness HD motorcycle was found.

The missing Haulmark Industry trailer was then recovered a short time later by DELTARAT officers in rural Tracy.  Later on Friday night, about 10 p.m., the stolen 1988 GMC Sierra pickup truck was recovered near Westley in Stanislaus County.

The truck had damage to the steering column and to the driver’s side door, according to Detective Schluer.  “From the extent of the damage, it was obvious it took the suspects a while to get it opened and started,” he said.

During the midnight hours Friday the 1950 Chevy pickup and the 1947 Ford Delivery van were found in west Tracy by DELTARAT detectives. Both sustained only minimal damage.  

The name of the Tracy resident already arrested in the investigation is not being released at this time pending more arrests to come in the continuing investigation, Schluer said.  He has been charged with six counts of auto theft and six counts of possession of stolen vehicles and has been transported to San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp.

Peter Karkie had died at his home sometime on Saturday, Jan. 9, located on Louise Avenue in Manteca.  Friends arrived at the home Monday morning and reported the vehicles missing, Schluer said.  

The custom vehicle collection was believed to have been taken between Sunday evening at 5 p.m. and Monday morning when the theft was discovered.  The preliminary investigation was handled by the Manteca Police Department before being turned over to the DELTARAT team.

Police said entry in to garage area was made with some type of pry bar.  Entry was also made into the residence, but there were no signs of forced entry, Schluer said.

The GMC Sierra Fleet size pickup was valued at $35,000; the 1947 Ford delivery truck at $45,000, the 1950 Chevy step side pickup with custom design valued at $30,000; and the 1940, two-door gray Ford coupe with a $50,000 value. The Haulmark trailer had a value of $6,500.  Some $40,000 in tools and an air compressor were also taken.

Detectives Schluer and Brandi are on special assignment with DELTARAT from their respective police departments, Manteca and Tracy.