Returning to the scene of the crime one too many times finally caught up with a pair of Indianapolis men this week.
The two 39-year-olds have been implicated in a string of chainsaw thefts targeting Stihl power equipment dealers in central Indiana over the past three years. Among the incidents were three break-ins and burglaries at Humphreys' Outdoor Power in Greencastle.
Being held in the Hamilton County Jail are Michael Critchfield, charged with two counts each of burglary and theft for the 2009 and 2010 incidents at Humphreys', and Bradley Deubner, charged with burglary and theft for the 2010 incident at the local business.
The two men were caught in the act of breaking into Reynolds Equipment in Fishers, Greencastle Det. Capt. Randy Seipel said Thursday.
Critchfield and Deubner are also implicated in burglaries at Stihl dealers in Bloomington, Hancock County, Hamilton County and "probably others," Seipel said.
Not only did they hit Humphreys' on three separate occasions, they also broke into J & S Locksmith, a Stihl dealer in Bloomington, several times.
And it was there in Monroe County where the break in the case occurred when an employee noted a would-be customer checking out the chainsaw display and acting suspiciously. When the suspect left the store, the employee was able to get the license number of his vehicle.
Soon thereafter another break-in occurred at the Bloomington business. Checking surveillance video from a restaurant across the street, authorities spotted the same suspicious vehicle pulling up to J & S at the time of the burglary.
"And the description of that vehicle matched one from our 2010 burglary," Seipel said.
With authorities identifying Critchfield and Deubner as suspects, they were placed under surveillance and ultimately caught in the act in Hamilton County.
During his interrogation of the suspects, Seipel got a "clean-up statement" from Critchfield, who admitted his involvement in the 2009 and 2010 Greencastle cases. He denied the 2008 incident and initially claimed nothing to do with the 2009 case until Seipel played the surveillance video from Humphrey's.
"He said, 'Oh, that is me,'" Seipel said. "His basic statement to me was 'times are tough, you just do what you need to do.'"
Apparently the thieves would use the telephone book to find Stihl dealers. After casing the sites, they would return to break into dealers' showrooms, grab a couple armloads of chainsaws and be gone within a couple of minutes of their arrival.
The chainsaws, targeted because of Stihl's quality and reputation as a "high-dollar item," were easy to sell quickly in Indianapolis, Seipel said.
Siepel estimated the total loss in the three Humphreys' cases at more than $20,000, not including damage.
The scenarios and dates of each local case were nearly identical:
Break-in No. 1 -- Nov. 20, 2008: Nine chainsaws and one cut-off saw taken.
Break-in No. 2 -- Dec. 22, 2009: Ten chainsaws stolen.
Break-in No. 3 -- Dec. 24, 2010: Nine chainsaws and one limb saw taken.
Owner Brian Humphreys said maybe now he will quit getting the same question asked all the time: "Did you get your robbers?" When he'd answer "no," the reply was often, "Well then, I'll be there to get my chainsaw on the 23rd."
Humphreys said he and his family are "very happy people" thanks to the diligent police work done to solve the cases.
"We won't have to hold the Christmas party in the showroom this year," he laughed, noting that each successive break-in resulted in more security.
After the 2008 incident, Humphrey's installed security cameras, which caught Critchfield on tape in 2009. After 2010, an alarm system was added.
"Obviously we want to express our thanks to the Greencastle Police Department, and Randy especially, for staying vigilant to it," Humphreys added. "They put in a lot of hours trying to make things happen and were close to catching them a couple of times."
Seipel pointed to inter-departmental cooperation as key to solving the case.
He praised the manhours uniformed officers gave to the case as well through extra patrols and surveillance details during the multi-county investigation. Agencies shared information and kept each other appraised of updates in the case over the past three years.
One of the keys was the 2009 photo of Critchfield made from the Humphreys' security video. It was shared with dozens of agencies and jurisdictions involved in the investigation.
"It was a long investigation but we're happy with the results," Seipel said.