ST. GEORGE — Two were arrested Friday afternoon during a traffic stop in Washington City after a broken brake light led officers to the suspects wanted for questioning in a theft case.
On Friday, an officer in Washington City stopped a red Ford Expedition shortly after 3 p.m. for a broken brake light. When he ran the two occupants, Chad Lyman, 47, of Washington City and Jessica Nelson, 42, through the system, he discovered that both were wanted for questioning in connection to the theft of a box trailer reported stolen at the end of March, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrests.
In that case, a man who was arrested on an unrelated incident in St. George in March told police he had a box trailer that was parked in the Washington City Walmart parking lot on Telegraph Street. He also said he believed the trailer would still be there when he was released from Purgatory Correctional Facility a few days later.
At the time of his arrest, the trailer owner was with Lyman and Nelson, and a statement supported by the original arrest report listed the pair by name under the “involvements” section, the officer noted in the report.
The man had reported the trailer stolen after he was released from jail and went to retrieve it, the report states, but when he got to the Walmart parking lot, the trailer was no longer there. He told authorities the trailer was valued at $5,000.
While reporting the theft, the owner reportedly told officers he believed that Lyman and Nelson took the trailer while he was locked up in jail. He explained to investigators that both Lyman and Nelson were friends of his and that all three had slept in the trailer prior to his arrest March 30, the report states.
The patrol officer conducting Friday night’s traffic stop reached out to the arresting officer from March who told him the red Expedition the suspects were stopped in was well known to police, and it matched the vehicle shown on surveillance footage entering the Walmart parking lot shortly after 9:30 p.m. the night of the theft. The footage also showed that minutes after the trailer was connected, the SUV was seen leaving the parking lot.
The investigator also sent still shots from the footage to the patrol officer who was able to confirm it was the same SUV — down to the after-market rims that were an exact match to the rims on Lyman’s Ford.
With documentation showing both suspects in the company of the man at the time of his arrest in March, in addition to the surveillance footage showing Lyman’s vehicle in the parking lot hitching up the trailer shortly after the owner’s arrest, and the fact that both suspects were aware the owner would be locked up and unable to protect his property, the officer had reason to believe the two were responsible for the theft of the trailer.
Both suspects were arrested and during questioning, Lyman initially told the officer he was willing to answer questions but as soon as he was shown the still photos taken from the Walmart surveillance footage he immediately requested an attorney, according to the report.
The officer took an inventory of the inside of the Expedition prior to it being impounded and recovered a syringe loaded with a brown liquid consistent with heroin in the center console and within reach of both suspects.
Lyman and Nelson were subsequently booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility facing second-degree felony theft, as well as two misdemeanor counts of drug possession. Lyman also faces an additional charge for possession of paraphernalia.
The officer then requested that both suspect be held without bail, citing that Lyman has strong ties to Utah County and his fiancé, Nelson, was reportedly homeless and would likely flee with him. The officer also noted that with both suspects refusing to answer any questions relating to the missing trailer, authorities still had no idea what had happened to it or where it was located.
“I also am concerned as the trailer has not been recovered,” Washington City Police officer Robert Piedra noted in the bail request.
A review of Lyman’s criminal history shows numerous cases and convictions filed in Provo, American Fork, Washington County and other areas in Utah dating back more than 20 years.
Following Friday’s arrest, District Judge Jeffery Wilcox signed an order requiring that both suspects be held without bail.
Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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