Woman tells police she stole car because she needed a ride to see boyfriend

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ST. GEORGE — Charges were filed on Tuesday against a St. George woman who was arrested for allegedly taking a car on a test drive over the weekend and never bringing it back. It was later discovered it was a vehicle she never intended to purchase, nor did she have the money needed to pay for the car.

2021 file photo for illustrative purposes only of St. George Police responding to an incident near River Road, St. George, Dec. 17, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The incident took place on Saturday when officers were dispatched to a residence on North Prickly Pear Drive in Washington City shortly before 6 p.m. on a vehicle theft report.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, the case was then turned over to the St. George Police Department for follow up, since the parties involved lived in St. George.

Officers spoke to the car owner who said he was contacted by a woman, later identified 21-year-old Lilliana M. Steward, who sent a Facebook message inquiring about the Nissan Altima the owner had listed for sale.  When the woman asked the owner if he could bring the car to her residence so she could take it for a test drive, he agreed, and shortly thereafter, according to the report, she drove off for what the owner believed was a short drive, he said.

The report also states that after a long period of time, the owner messaged the woman when she failed to return the car, and shortly thereafter she returned and told the owner she wanted to buy the car, adding that a family member was sending her $1,900 to purchase the vehicle. She also asked if she could drive the car around the block one more time, and said she would park the car up the street, a request that caused the buyer to be leery, he said, but he agreed and watched the suspect drive away.

After waiting several minutes he realized she had taken the vehicle and left, which is when he deiced to contact police. While taking the report, officers learned the car owner had sent a message to Steward, who told him she left the car at an auto parts store on St. George Boulevard after she had run out of gas.

The owner also told officers he went to the auto parts store where Steward said she left the car, but when he got there the vehicle was nowhere to be found. When the owner continued messaging Steward as to where the car was, her only reply was that she had left it at the store on St. George Boulevard, and she did not know what else to tell him, according to the report.

According to the officer, it was clear Steward “planned to permanently deprive the victim of the vehicle as she made it clear she had no intentions to return it,” he noted in the report, and when officers called the number provided by the car owner they reached a woman named Alexis Bird, who said she was Steward’s sister.

During the call, the woman reportedly went on to tell officers she had gone to the auto parts store to pick up Steward who had just left for a trip to California with a family member.

The report also states the officer became suspicious and believed the woman on the phone was lying, and when confronted, she told officers that the car had been left at “a random apartment complex on Westridge Drive,” and said she would have Steward call the officer back. Officers made numerous calls to the number that went unanswered, which is when investigators circulating the area spotted the Altima that was abandoned on North 1550 West in St. George.

In this 2021 file photo for illustrative purposes only St. George Police respond to an incident on 100 South and River Road, St. George, Dec. 17, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Through the course of the investigation, officers found Steward’s sister who lived nearby. She told officers her sister had brought the car over to the house, telling her she had purchased the car for $1,900 in cash and had the title. When Steward was unable to get the car to start, she handed the keys over to the sister and asked her for a ride to her boyfriend’s work.

Officers later learned the suspect was at a residence in St. George, which is where they found her a short time later. During an interview with police, the suspect said she had taken the car for a test drive, when it ran out of gas twice, she said.

She also admitted that her actions would have likely led to the owner believing that his car had been stolen, and she also said the car was never at the auto parts store, nor did she have the money to pay for the car.

The suspect went on to say the family member may have helped her pay for the car, had they been aware she intended to purchase a car that day. She also told officers it was she, not anyone by the name of Alexis Bird, who was on the phone during the earlier call from police.

As the interview was wrapping up, Steward told police she took the vehicle “because she needed a ride to get to her boyfriend’s,” the officer noted.

Steward was transported and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility facing second-degree theft and a misdemeanor charge of obstruction. She was also booked on an active warrant issued out of Justice Court for a traffic violation. On Tuesday, the charges were formally filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office and she was released from jail.

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.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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