STANTON — An alleged irrigation wire thief was apprehended by a band of farming brothers and police troopers after being tracked 3 miles in the snow and nearly freezing to death.
Justin Wilcox, 31, of Morley, appeared in 64B District Court for a preliminary hearing Tuesday afternoon. He was charged with two felonies — malicious destruction of personal property more than $1,000 and larceny more than $1,000.
However, Judge Donald Hemingsen reduced the larceny felony to a misdemeanor and only bound the malicious destruction of personal property felony over to 8th Judicial Circuit Court. The latter felony would typically carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison; however, Wilcox faces up to life in prison if convicted due to three prior felonies on his record.
Patrick Q. Carr and Timothy Carr are brothers and both farm in the Winfield Township area. Patrick Q. Carr is president of Carr Farms Inc. He is also chairman of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners. Timothy Carr is treasurer of Carr Farms Inc.
The brothers drove to 40 acres of their farmland on Green Road at 11:31 p.m. Jan. 17 after receiving a cell phone alert about problems on the property. Timothy Carr testified he found about 200 feet of 660 feet of irrigation pivot wire had been cut. He found a ladder, bolt cutters, duffel bags and a homemade sled at the scene of the crime. He also observed two sets of footprints going in different directions in the freshly fallen snow.
Timothy Carr said he stayed in his pickup truck until his brother and troopers from the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post arrived. Police and their tracking dogs followed one set of footprints while the Carr brothers followed the other set of footprints in their pickup trucks.
After a three-hour search of about three miles, Timothy Carr said Patrick Q. Carr found Wilcox lying in a hayfield near 165th Avenue. The man’s clothes were frozen. Timothy Carr said temperatures were in the 20s on that “extremely cold” snowy, windy night.
“He was in the center of four of our pickup trucks with the headlights on him,” Timothy Carr said.
Patrick Q. Carr said Farm Services Inc. charged him $1,132 to replace the damaged wire. He said the replacement was done at a bare minimum and not to his satisfaction.
Michigan State Police Det. Ed Doyle testified about backtracking the suspect’s footprints back to the scene of the crime the following day. He said the footprints became difficult to see because of wind and snow.
Wilcox remains in the Montcalm County Jail in Stanton on $25,000 cash surety bond, despite defense attorney Lori Shearer’s motion for a reduced bond.