Five alleged looters have been arrested over claims they targeted victims of the deadly Kentucky tornadoes, stealing cars, copper wire – and even Ugg boots.
The suspected thieves were arrested in Graves County, Friday, and include suspected car thief Kaitlyn Moore, 29.
She is said to have stolen a car, and was also found with crystal meth inside an unspecified ‘body cavity’ afterwards, it is claimed.
Linda Morris, 52, is said to have stolen a car, copper wiring and a brand new pair of Ugg boots, and was also found in possession of meth, it is claimed.
It is unclear if she and Moore stole the drugs they were found with.
Cops caught Kevin Stowe, 55, driving a vehicle with a stolen license plate and carrying more than $120,000 in cash.
He was charged with theft of an automobile and theft of a vehicle registration plate, suggesting that he had already been toting the huge pile of cash he was found with.
Ronnie White, 57, and Lynne Bailey, 56, were also charged with unlawful taking of an automobile.
Graves County sheriff’s deputies caught the alleged thieves on Friday after receiving reports of suspicious activity about half a mile away from the Mayfield candle factory that was leveled in the storms.
Police said the suspects were rummaging through personal property and loading items into stolen vehicles – which were owned by people who were displaced, hospitalized or deceased from the storm – at the intersection of Pritchett Road and US Highway 45 South.
Authorities stopped the suspects before they could flee and have since taken them to nearby county jails. The thefts remain under investigation.
Looters began ravaging the state after a deadly storm swept the Midwest last weekend, killing at least 78 people in hardest-hit Kentucky and destroying more than 1,000 homes.
The Graves County suspects were targeting communities in the southwestern part of the state, which was ‘particularly hit hard by the tornado and resulted in deaths,’ the sheriff’s office said Saturday.
The suspects issued contradicting statements to police, some alleging homeowners gave them permission to take the stolen property.
Investigation proved those statements to be false.
In wake of the crime spree, deputies and state police have increased patrols in the areas affected by the tornadoes.
Those who do not reside or have a legitimate business in Graves County are not allowed permitted in the area, as stated in the emergency declaration and ordered curfew impacting the county.
‘This is meant for your safety and the safety of personal property,’ the sheriff’s office said.
Police across the state have arrested at least 11 people, including the Graves County suspects, for looting from tornado-damaged property.
In nearby Caldwell County, authorities caught four Michigan men taken items from damaged homes and cars, according to Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
The Michiganders were charged with possession of burglary tools, receiving stolen property, possession of handgun by a convicted felon, and possession of marijuana.
The ‘full force of the law will be brought against anyone who tries to take advantage of Kentuckians,’ Cameron announced in a press release.
His comments came after Gov. Andy Beshear warned Friday against looting in damaged areas, calling the action ‘despicable,’ and vowed those ‘found guilty would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law’.
The December 10 tornadoes killed at least 93 people in five states, including 78 in Kentucky, according to ABC News. Six were killed in Illinois, five in Tennessee, two in Arkansas, and two in Missouri.
The victims in Kentucky range in age from 2 months old to 98 years old.
In Mayfield, more than 100 employees of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory braved a tornado inside the facility, with some saying they were trapped under as much as five feet of rubble.
Elijah Johnson, 20, has filed a lawsuit with 109 other employees against the family-owned candle factory in Kentucky.
They are asking for an undisclosed amount after they say they were told that if they left the factory they’d be fired – despite tornado sirens going off.
Only a few hours later, the whole factory was destroyed by the tornado, killing eight and injuring several. It is unclear how many are injured or missing.
The lawsuit claims the company showed ‘flagrant indifference to the rights of Plaintiff Johnson and to the other similarly situated Plaintiffs with a subjective awareness that such conduct will result in human death and/or bodily injuries.’
The company has since denied this claim, stating that they followed protocol.
There were at least 44 tornados reported in nine states: Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio and Alabama.
The continuous tornado path spanned 163.5 mi, making it the longest continuous tornado track in Kentucky history. It’s also the deadliest tornado outbreak in the US since May 2011, when more than 170 people were killed.