A Missouri man was charged this week after a car discovered on the side of the interstate in Columbia late Monday turned up stolen.
The Metro East Auto Theft Task Force said that shortly after 11:20 p.m. Monday, Columbia police officer Ryan Doetsch located a 2001 BMW parked on the side of I-255 near mile marker 6.6. The vehicle returned stolen out of St. Louis city.
A task force investigator was dispatched to the scene to take over the case.
A short time later, a resident on Lake Shore Drive in Columbia reported to police that a man visited their residence and had asked for money for gas. The man stated his vehicle broke down on the highway. The homeowner gave this man a gas can and he was last seen walking on Micah’s Way, police said.
At about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, an employee of Midwest Petroleum on North Main Street in Columbia called police to report a subject matching the description of the man asking for gas had just left the gas station on foot.
Columbia police responded and identified the man as Aaron M. Robbins, 40, of Farmington, Mo. Robbins had active warrants out of St. Clair County (traffic offenses and criminal trespass to vehicle) and Missouri (felony charges), police said.
When Columbia police made contact with Robbins, he claimed to have swallowed an unknown substance and was transported to a local hospital.
“He stated to the officers he swallowed fentanyl,” Jany said.
Robbins was charged later in the week in Monroe County Circuit Court with unlawful possession of a stolen/converted vehicle. On Thursday, he was sentenced to three years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, to be served at 50 percent. A charge of obstructing identification was dismissed.
“This is a great example of how residents reporting suspicious activity can help their local police agencies solve crimes that affect their communities,” Jany said.
The Columbia Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department each have officers assigned to the task force, which targets vehicle thefts in Monroe and St. Clair counties.
The task force is privately funded by motorists through the Illinois Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention & Insurance Validation Council, which is a conglomerate of insurance companies that charges a small fee on insurance policies to pay for auto theft task forces and other initiatives.
Read more on the task force by clicking here.
A separate case reported earlier this week involving a stolen Toyota car from St. Louis crashing in Columbia after which a good samaritan who stopped to help had his truck stolen is still under investigation by this task force. Read about that incident by clicking here.