Burglary spree details emerge

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

An arraignment was held Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011, for additional charges filed by the state against Thomas J. Miller of Aledo, 23, turned into a pre-trial preliminary hearing for Miller who was recently arrested in connection with a series of burglaries in Mercer County. A motion by State's Attorney Gregory McHugh to reconsider holding the preliminary hearing was denied by Judge James G. Conway.

McHugh argued the new charges did not need to be considered for another preliminary hearing "unless new charges filed were completely unrelated. A burglary is a burglary. The cases are definitely related," McHugh claimed.

In denying the motion, Judge Conway said that elements of some of the charges were substantially different.

The state called on Aledo Police Sergeant and investigator Nick Seefeld first to testify.

The burglaries came to light through a Crimestoppers tip, said Seefeld. He said that three victims came forward about vehicle burglaries that took place between Nov. 23 - Nov. 25 in Aledo. The Crimestopper tip included names of individuals involved.

Seefeld interviewed one of the suspects, Evan Bodeen of Viola, 23, first. Bodeen initially gave information, but did not admit participation in the burglaries.

Seefeld indicated he contacted the Mercer County Sheriff's department after learning that some of the burglaries had taken place outside of Aledo. MC investigator Bill Glancey teamed with Seefeld on the burglary cases.

According to information from several of the other individuals being charged with the burglaries, Miller was the driver during the spree, which involved vehicle burglaries in the Aledo, Joy, Millersburg and Seaton areas, as well as rural burglaries between the four Mercer County areas.

During a second interview with Bodeen, he implicated himself after being read his rights and agreeing to be interviewed. Bodeen took both officers on a ride along to all the locations in Aledo and out in Mercer County, identifying where the group of individuals stopped and burglarized. Items taken included televisions, tools, cell phones, money including a large amount of change, a CD player, prescription drugs, a BB gun, cigarettes, a saw and drill kit and more.

Seefeld testified he next interviewed Daniel Rogers of Aledo, 18, who also took the officers on a drive around to the various locations in the county that were burglarized. "It was the exact same route and he pointed out the same vehicles and residences as Bodeen," said Seefeld.

Besides vehicles being burglarized, garages and homes were also entered, according to testimony.

While in Millersburg and Seaton the six individuals split up into two teams to work the villages, said Seefeld.

Joshua Anderson of Aledo, 19, was interviewed next and confirmed that Bodeen, Miller, Daniel Rogers and Gage Ruggles of Aledo, 17, were all in Miller's vehicle during some of the burglaries. A drive around with Anderson confirmed the same vehicles and residences that were plundered.

McHugh asked Seefeld how the teams operated.

Seefeld said the individuals parked the vehicle in a central location and headed out on foot, with one group heading one way, and the other group another way. Miller was identified as the driver during all the burglaries, sometimes exiting the vehicle to search for things to take.

Seefeld next talked about his interview with Gage Ruggles of Aledo, 17. He testified that he, Bodeen, Miller, Anderson and Rogers all were in Miller's vehicle between Nov. 23-25 and during the drive around pointed out the same locations where vehicles, homes and garages were entered. "There were others that didn't involve Mr. Miller that occurred in Aledo," said Seefeld.

Seefeld said that Miller turned himself in to the sheriff's department  and arranged a time to be interviewed with his attorney present. Attorney Aaron Dyer was present during the interview at the sheriff's office and was in court Tuesday to represent Miller.

Miller was interviewed a second time on Friday, Jan. 7, with his attorney present and "completely changed everything.. He said he wasn't driving the vehicle and said he was set up by the others."

Seefeld also testified that the police department had obtained video surveillance from the Galesburg Walmart change cashing machine that "puts Miller at the change cash location."

"Loose change was a big part of this investigation,"  said Seefeld.

Another interview with an employee at Cokel's welding brought in testimony that one of the stolen items was seen in the trunk of Miller's vehicle, Seefeld said.

Three additional witnesses were interviewed who said that Miller, Anderson and Rogers were at a downtown apartment with some of the stolen property.

Defense attorney Dyer had no questions for Seefeld.

Next William G. Glancey, Mercer County Sheriff investigator and detective, testified giving more information on how the team burglary worked. He said that Miller and Rogers were on one team and Bodeen, Anderson and Ruggles took off in another direction in both Seaton and Millersburg.

Glancey also talked about the drive alongs with each of the accused, indicating they all said it was Thomas Miller's car and that Thomas Miller was driving.

An additional item that was stolen was half of a $20 bill, "which they attempted to cash in at a bank in Aledo," said Glancey.

Glancey testified that Miller was interviewed prior to Ruggles during the investigation.

Defense attorney Dyer argued that in the 11-count amended information filed against his client, the charges read as if Miller was the only one involved in the residential and vehicle burglaries. He said that the state did not present evidence on six of the charges filed against his client.

Judge Conway determined there was probable cause to hold Miller to answer to each of the 11 counts.

Dyer said Miller was willing to waive the arraignment and enter a plea of "not guilty" to all charges. He asked for a jury trial.

A trial date was set for 9 a.m. March 28, 2011. The pretrial conference was set for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

Bond remains at $75,000, 10 percent, with Miller ordered to have no contact with Bodeen, Anderson, Rogers or Ruggles.