Suspect arrested in much publicized Diboll manhole covers theft

Jack Johnson. Source: Angelina Co. Jail
Jack Johnson. Source: Angelina Co. Jail

DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) - Police say they caught a thief in the act of destroying property along railroad tracks in Diboll and that in turn helped them nab the person also believed responsible for stealing at least nine city manhole covers.

The stolen manhole covers and rings weigh about 200 pounds each.   Investigators believe Jack Johnson, 40, stole the covers for some quick cash at a scrap yard.  Initially police believed there was more than one suspect.

According to detective Norman Williams, Diboll Police Department, a Crime Stoppers tip and a very observance officer Matthew Reppond led them to Johnson's initial arrest.

On April 17, Reppond spotted Johnson just south of Maynard Street along the railroad tracks.  "The defendant was using a small sledge hammer to break apart an iron pipe that belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad," according to an arrest affidavit.  Investigators suspect Johnson intended to sell the iron as cast iron scrap.

Johnson was arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief (state jail felony).  Further investigation pointed officers to Johnson as a suspect in the much publicized manhole covers theft.

The additional charge of theft of property (state jail felony) valued at more than $1,500 but less than $20,000 was added two days after the criminal mischief arrest.  Williams said information gathered in December gave them probable cause to suspect Johnson.

"We received several Crime Stoppers tips stating the defendant (Jack Johnson) had committed the theft.  Det. Williams followed up on the tips and spoke with several possible witnesses.  One witness said they saw the defendant in possession of the manhole covers in the back of a truck and that the defendant had sold them for scrap at a Lufkin scrap yard," stated in an arrested affidavit.

The missing covers left a gaping hole and a 15 foot drop in some city streets.  The stolen manhole covers have since been replaced around Booker Street and Highway 59 South, near the Diboll Waste Water Treatment Facility.

Johnson is in the Angelina County Jail in lieu of $2,500 bond.

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