A 25-year-old Audubon man is suspected of breaking into the Manning service center last month, stealing a large quantity of tools, other items and a van, and sending this truck in the Nishnabotna river.
Zeth Lee Petersen is accused of entering an adjacent building and forcing an interior door to break into the auto repair shop at 503 Main St. in the early hours of July 23, court records show.
He allegedly loaded a large quantity of tools and other items into a customer’s truck that was inside the repair shop for about two hours, then drove away in the stolen vehicle, which belongs to a farmer.
Officers obtained surveillance video in the area that showed someone entering the buildings at around 3:45 a.m., and the truck left the store around 6:15 a.m., court records show.
The stolen tools included numerous sets of wrenches, sockets, ratchets, impact wrenches, levers, punches, chisels and pliers, as well as a welder and air conditioner, among others.
Petersen is charged with breaking and entering, punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted.
An officer spoke with Petersen later that day as he was cutting bushes on a property about a block from the Manning Service Center, and the tread and size of Petersen’s shoes appeared to match the footprints footsteps found on the dusty floors of the buildings where the burglary was reported. , court records show.
Petersen also reportedly admitted to being in the area of the buildings at the time of the burglary. He then drove the officers to the truck into the river, Police Chief Sam Hansen said.
Officers confiscated Petersen’s shoes and a cell phone with a search warrant, court records show. He was arrested five days after the robbery.
The crime was a major disruption for Robert Schmidt, who owned the Manning Service Center with his wife Sharon for 11 years and had worked there for 10 years previously.
“You feel violated,” said Robert Schmidt, who spent weeks trying to compile a list of everything that was taken. “I calm down, but then I find something else he’s (took), and then you’re instantly, uncontrollably pissed off again.”
Schmidt discovered the heist within hours.
“It’s heartbreaking, to put it in the most beautiful way,” he said, “when you come around the corner and see your door wide open and (stuff) strewn all over the place.”
For hours, Schmidt and his mechanic, his grandson, were unable to do any repair work while investigators searched the shop for clues. They had a decent amount of backup tools to start working again afterward, but Schmidt was forced to make numerous trips to a local auto parts store for new tools. He estimates that the police were able to recover about a quarter of the stolen tools and has little hope of recovering the rest.
But he was encouraged by the response from his local insurance agent and the work of local law enforcement.
“The police department did a tremendous job,” Schmidt said. “They are very, very good at their job. Sam Hansen in particular. I can’t say enough good things about it.
Petersen has another burglary charge pending in district court for allegedly stealing a snowblower in Audubon in December 2020. He was also convicted of theft for stealing around $ 330 of items from Walmart in Carroll in April 2020.