Danville PD: Saliva on straw helped catch truck thief

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DANVILLE, Ind. -- Danville police say a DNA sample taken nearly a year ago helped them connect three pickup truck thefts to the same suspect.

Terry Dye, 24, of Indianapolis, now faces three felony counts of auto theft. Investigators believe Dye targeted two Ford F-350s and a Ford F-250 parked in business parking lots in Danville and Indianapolis. The trucks were reported stolen within a couple days of July 23, 2018.

The first pickup was reported stolen from the Finer Details parking lot in the 2000 block of East Main Street in Danville. Court records show the truck had been left locked with no keys inside with a “for sale” sign in the parking lot. The truck was found by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department the next day at a home in the 1300 block of Phillips Drive in Indianapolis. Dye was also found at the home and was arrested on an outstanding warrant for an unrelated auto theft case.

Another pickup that had been reported stolen to IMPD was located at the Crosswinds Apartments in Danville. Police found several items inside the truck that did not belong to the vehicle’s owner. The items included a drink with a straw. Danville PD’s Crime Scene Investigator took a DNA sample of saliva on the straw and sent it to the Indiana State Police Crime Lab for analysis.

“Once that was sent off, they gave a positive indication that the DNA sample belonged to the suspect in this case,” said Danville Police Public Information Officer Nate Lien.

Since last year, Indiana state law requires a DNA sample be kept on file for anyone arrested on a felony charge. Lien said Dye already had a DNA sample in the state database from a previous case.

“They took those two items they knew belonged to that individual, and it was a match,” Lien said.

Danville police also found tax records inside the pickup found at the Crosswinds Apartments that did not belong to Dye or the vehicle’s owner. The tax records belonged to Avon resident Gene Thomas. Police contacted Thomas about finding his tax records in a stolen vehicle.

“I said, 'Well, the only way they could have gotten my information is if they stole my truck,'” Thomas said. “So I come to my work and met them here and my truck was gone.”

Thomas’ red Ford F-350 was missing from where he had left it at Flavor Burst, where he works. Thomas said he had left the truck there while he went shopping with his wife. The truck was found damaged the next day in a quiet Avon subdivision in the 5000 block of Braemer Street.

At that point, investigators had evidence to connect all three stolen pickups to Dye. Nearly a year after the trucks were stolen, court records show DNA analysis matched Dye’s file to the sample collected from the straw inside the pickup truck.

That’s when Thomas received an unexpected call from Danville police.

“And now, a year later, they found him, and I’m glad,” Thomas said. “I’m glad they finally found somebody that took my truck.”

Lien says Dye left a trail for investigators to follow, but the DNA match allowed them to tie all three truck thefts together. He says the 2018 DNA sample law is already helping law enforcement solve cases such as this.

“Now that it’s required to be held, if these people are going to continue to commit crimes, we’re going to continue to catch them each time,” Lien said.

Lien also said DNA samples for high-profile crimes often get first priority at the state police crime labs, so officers urge victims of theft and other crimes to remain patient with the process.

“We try to explain that to the victims. That hey, we have some evidence in this case. We’re going to submit it,” Lien said.  “You may not hear anything on this for a long period of time. And in this case, it’s been a year.”

“I was ecstatic, really,” Thomas said. “I’m glad they caught him.”

Dye currently has a pending felony case involving auto theft in Hancock County, in addition to the new charges in Hendricks County.

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