Police end string of Lenoir car burglaries

Teens 'did it just for fun at first'

A trio of 17-year-old Lenoir City High School students motivated by the thrill of breaking the law spent several nights over the past month sneaking out and burglarizing scores of vehicles before their crime spree was brought to an end by a fortuitous traffic stop over the weekend, police said.

The boys have confessed to more than 80 automobile burglaries in which they stole electronics, cash, purses, cell phones and Tasers, according to the Loudon County Sheriff's Office.

"They did it just for fun at first, but they sort of got hooked on it because it was so easy," Sheriff's Office Investigator Charlie Cosner said Monday.

The break-ins took place in the northern section of the county and in Lenoir City, and most of the vehicles were parked outside homes in the early hours of the morning when they were targeted.

"They would be spending nights with each other, and after their parents went to bed, they'd go out," Cosner said. "There was no forced entry. They'd go up to the cars, pull on the handles, and then took whatever they wanted."

After prowling the streets at night looking for things to steal, the boys "would actually get up in the morning and go to school," Cosner said.

Loudon County investigators working in tandem with Lenoir City Police Department Investigator Jonathan Sartin already had been pursuing leads, and by late last week the boys were possible suspects.

Early Saturday morning, Sheriff's Office Deputy Michael Watkins stopped a suspicious vehicle that one of the boys was riding in near Misty Ridge subdivision. He recognized one of the occupants as a suspect and called for investigators.

After the boy was interviewed, "we just went ahead and picked up the other two," Cosner said.

Police were sorting through the stolen property Monday so it can be returned to the rightful owners, but "these boys have taken so much, it's going to be impossible to find everything," Cosner said.

The boys face numerous counts of theft and burglary. Two had prior juvenile records, he said.