Greedy thief returns to scene of the crime, gets caught
By Frank Abderholden email@example.com @abderholden October 10, 2013 3:42PM
Thieves drove a stolen pickup truck through a neighbor's lawn knocking over a tree, part of a fence and Halloween decorations.| Frank Abderholden/Sun-Times Media
The man who was chased down by neighbors in Woster Lake was identified Thursday, Oct. 10, as Charles Oberlin, 18, of 27663 W. Bayview, Ingleside.
He was being held on $50,000 bond on charges of residential burglary, theft of motor vehicle and three counts of felony theft. He is scheduled to appear in Lake County Circuit Court Oct. 15.
Last fall, he was arrested with two other suspects near the Fox Lake Hills subdivision after a call from a resident about a suspicious vehicle. Police found miscellaneous property inside the vehicle from car burglaries in the area and Oberlin was charged at that time with burglary to motor vehicle and theft and possession of marijuana.
“He was the main perpetrator,” said Lake County Sheriff Chief Brian Keller, saying the other suspect was not charged.
Updated: November 12, 2013 6:13AM
INGLESIDE — A suspected thief, an alert resident, her boyfriend, brother, half a dozen car burglaries and the theft of a pickup truck combined into a story of greed when the suspect returned for some forgotten loot and got himself arrested.
Brandel Gempp of Ingleside tried to shush her barking dog around 6 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, because she didn’t want to wake up her boyfriend. Then, five minutes later, the 30-year-old heard the engine start on her boyfriend’s pickup truck in the driveway.
She jumped up and ran out on the porch in her SpongeBob pajamas (“I’m sure that was intimidating,” she laughed afterward) and started yelling at a thief who was driving her boyfriend’s truck through her neighbor’s yard. “He couldn’t get out because my car was behind the truck, so he peeled out through my neighbor’s lawn and ran over a tree and part of his fence,” she said, “It was just crazy chaos.”
The suspect found a key hidden inside the truck and decided to take the whole vehicle filled with tools. The Dodge Ram made it from Gempp’s home in the 34000 block of North Forest Avenue to Route 134 and was gone.
Gempp called the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to make a report. It turns out that deputies said there were seven burglaries in the neighborhood on the north side of Wooster Lake, one in which a game system was stolen from a home while the occupants slept. After deputies left, Gempp called her brother, Larry, 29, who also lives in the neighborhood, to tell him about the stolen truck. He came over and while they were standing outside, they noticed a green blanket near a street sign.
Curious as to what it was, they unfolded he blanket and saw a game system inside. Thinking this might be loot from the burglaries, they removed the item and replaced it with retaining wall brick and waited, wondering if the thieves would be stupid enough to return.
“Maybe they are dumb enough to come back for it,” she told her brother.
Since her boyfriend, Justin Wicinski, 32, couldn’t go to work, about 45 minutes after the incident, he started cleaning up the nails and recovering some of the tools and wood that had fallen out the back of his truck because the tailgate was open when the thief took off. There were nails and other debris on North Forest Avenue and Route 134.
Sure enough, a young kid walked up and when Wicinski asked him who he was and what he was doing there, the suspect said he was waiting to get picked up by his cousin. “But he had seen the kid get dropped off,” she said. The kid went to the street sign and pretended to talk on his cellphone.
“There were five people, neighbors, standing around,” said Gempp. Then the kid picked up the blanket. From this point, her brother Larry picks up the story. He asked the youth, “Is that yours?” and he responded, “No it’s my friend’s. I’m picking it up for him,” he said, but the youth was really getting nervous, he even started to shake a little. Then he took off.
He ran behind the closest home and ditched the blanket and scaled a fence with Larry Gempp close behind. He scaled a second fence and Gempp said he would have caught him, but he tripped and fell. Then he ran through an empty lot and tried scaling a third fence.
“He was halfway up the fence when I got him. I put my arms around him and body slammed him onto the ground. Then I turned him over. I got both arms off to the side and restrained him. I put my forearm to his throat and he couldn’t move,” he said. “At one point he said ‘you’re hurting me’ and I said ‘That’s the point,’” said Gempp.
In the meantime, a second youth, who apparently was driving the get-away-car, had walked up along Route 134. Justin Wicinski told him to stay put because he would chase him down. The suspect complied. He was not charged after an investigation.
Charles Oberlin, 18, of 27663 W. Bayview, Ingleside, was arrested by Lake County Sheriff’s deputies who had returned to the scene after Brandel called 911 and gave dispatchers a running commentary on the chase, describing the suspect’s clothes and appearance.
Police were able to locate the pickup truck in Kenosha, Wisconsin, at the home of the suspect’s girlfriend. It was returned to Wicinski. “To me, this is just insane. I can’t believe they came back only two hours after the truck was stolen and there were five people in the street,” said Brandel, who said there had seemed to be an uptick in the number of neighbors who reported car burglaries where the thieves just looked for open doors.
“We probably wouldn’t have caught anybody if they didn’t come back,” said her brother, Larry.
The brother and sister gave credit to the sheriff’s deputies and detective that responded saying, “they were great.” Lake County Sheriff Chief Brian Keller returned the compliment. “They were creative, thankfully no one got hurt, and they apprehended the guy. It was great,” he said.
It was a neighborhood coming together to catch the bad guys.
“It’s a happy ending,” said Brandel.