Livingston Police Department had a hunch a rash of auto burglaries in the area might have been perpetrated by juveniles. However, that hunch turned out to be wrong.
Nevertheless, LPD arrested one of two alleged car burglars with Kentucky connections in a manhunt Friday, April 11.
LPD Chief Greg Etheredge said the latest in a string of auto burglary cases broke on Wednesday, April 9, when vehicles in the Hidden Valley neighborhood were burglarized. Like the string of previous auto burglaries in the area, Etheredge said burglars took mostly spare change, small electronic items such as phones or media players, and other miscellaneous effects, but left larger, more valuable items such as car stereos and amplifiers untouched.
Officers reportedly worked on leads that showed some of the stolen material had shown up in Kentucky. They continued working those leads until Friday evening, when Etheredge said a concerned citizen called police to report a suspicious person on foot in Hidden Valley.
Etheredge said, “It’s funny with a lot of technology in use, sometimes the old methods work well, too. We rolled our windows down and started listening for dogs barking. A short time later, we heard a lot of dogs barking near the country club.”
That’s when Etheredge said he, Officer Chris Gore, and Sgt. Ray Smith split up to hit different streets in that part of the neighborhood.
Gore eventually came into contact with a pickup truck that had Kentucky tags and was parked between the golf cart storage area and the pool at the country club, such that it was not immediately visible from the street.
At about the same time, Etheredge said Smith came into contact with a subject who led him on a foot chase across the golf course.
“At this point, the sheriff’s department responded with a truck and several lights, we started to call in additional resources with the PD, and we were able to establish a perimeter fairly quickly,” Etheredge said.
The chief added that a reverse 911 call was made to residents in the area so they could be aware of the situation and would not be worried if they saw police activity in the area.
“We didn’t want to scare people,” Etheredge said.
Additional support was called in from Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, which brought in a tracking unit. The K-9 officer tracked across the golf course in the same general direction Smith had chased the suspect, according to Etheredge. Eventually, the dog seemed to lose the trail at Celina Highway.
By that time, Etheredge said police had contacted Country Club ownership about the tuck. The club’s owner reportedly advised police the truck was not supposed to be parked there and should be towed. Officers then reportedly gained entry to the truck and allegedly found evidence that tied it to a number of recent auto burglaries in the area. The truck also gave police a suspect’s name: Carion Costelli, age 38, of Kentucky. A second man, age 20, believed to be an accomplice was also identified based on evidence found in the truck, according to Etheredge, but this name was not released at press time.
Eventually, Gore and Officer Sam Carpenter came across Costelli on Celina Highway and initiated a felony arrest. He was reportedly charged with three counts of burglary of an automobile, theft over $500, and theft under $500.
Early Saturday morning, Etheredge said LPD went as far as to enlist the help of flight instructor James Sells at Tennessee Vertical Flight, based at Livingston Municipal Airport, to search for any suspicious individuals on foot in the area. Though that effort turned up no additional suspects, a concerned citizen call alerted police to some discarded clothing and a backpack in Winningham Park that they allege Costelli had removed in an effort to disguise himself. Additionally, authorities say Costelli tried to set up an alibi for himself by walking to Daily’s Gas Station on East Main Street and telling the clerk on duty that his truck had run out of gas in Hidden Valley.
Additional charges are pending in the case, according to Etheredge.