Mud leads to discovery of stolen mail

An SUV stuck in a field contained a variety of other people's possessions, law enforcement officers say.

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Mud caused by recent heavy rains became a tool and foil for local law enforcement officers this week.

A 1989 Nissan Pathfinder became stuck in a large field on Stateline Road before 3 a.m. on Monday, next door to the home of retired Oregon State Trooper Mike Davis.

Davis noticed the vehicle, found the circumstances suspicious, called police and "grabbed his gun," noted Capt. Bill White with the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office. "Probably he shouldn't have done that. They were stuck, they weren't going anywhere."

Davis approached the Nissan, rousted its two occupants and held them at gunpoint as trespassers, White said this morning.

Officers from the city and county responded to Davis' call. By that time, however, the two suspects -- one male and one female -- had fled, running northbound into Washington, he added.

The rain, dark and mud made searching for the suspects difficult, White noted.

Upon obtaining a warrant, officers searched the vehicle and found numerous items indicating mail theft, he said. Included were envelopes addressed to people in Milton-Freewater, College Place and Walla Walla. They contained blank checks, holiday cards, credit-card offers, cell phones, mail-order DVDs, pay stubs and prescription medications, according to the sheriff's office report.

"We've had a group working the mailboxes here and in Oregon, so they are out cruising the roads," White said. "In this case they apparently got off the beaten track, tried to cross the field and they got stuck."

Officers also found a storage tub containing a case of white powder that tested presumptively as cocaine.

Evidence from the Nissan was processed in the field since the ground was too muddy to allow for towing the vehicle, White said. Since then the Nissan has disappeared, presumably driven off by someone with a key, he added.

The contraband mail was photographed and will be returned to owners, White said. He cautioned residents to take precautions against being victimized by mail thieves.

"It's just that time of year you have to be extra vigilant. The bad guys do their Christmas shopping, too."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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