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A Thanksgiving Crime Story

The Sheriff’s canine, Justice, has passed his certification with the State of California. He will be undergoing a few more weeks of specialized training prior to hitting the streets as a full duty patrol dog. The second Citizens Academy class will be kicking off early next year. Those interested in this exciting and educational experience should contact the Sheriff’s office at 533-5815.

And now, on to our story…*

Jane Brenner lived in Groveland most of her life she loved the small town atmosphere, the scenic country side, and most of all, the star filled night sky. Except for her one hundred and ninety pound Great Dane, Stanley, she lived alone in a small two bedroom house on two acres where she grew a huge vegetable garden. This year she would see her eighty second November and she looked forward to seeing her kids and grand kids who were coming for Thanksgiving. She raised a turkey for the occasion and could hardly wait for the special evening to arrive; the turkey… not so much.

Johnny Bedford was a drug addict he did odd jobs to pay for his habit, most of the time. Knowing that many people were away visiting relatives this time of year, he had quite a collection of stolen items in the camper that was always on the back of his truck.

By 3:00 p.m. On Thanksgiving Day, Jane had the turkey cooked to a golden brown. It was still cooling in the roasting pan and the only thing left to do was go out to the garden for some fresh veggies. She never saw the beat up truck with the camper, roll slowly to a stop on the small dirt road that ran behind her lot.

Johnny left his truck idling on the small road partially hidden from view by an old detached garage. He walked quickly to the back door and went inside looking from right to left, but did not see anything he could sell easily. He heard movement in the kitchen, so he went to the window, lifted it, pushed the screen out and slipped quietly outside.

Gary Walden was also a drug addict but unlike Johnny, he had hardly done an honest day’s work in his life. Gary was from Modesto and was only in the area because he let his friend talk him into it. His friend decided he liked it in Groveland and wanted to stay a week or so. Gary was no country boy and he wanted to get back home ASAP so he started walking. He didn’t really know how he was going to get home but he felt better once he was underway. He had just turned a corner onto a small one lane road when he saw a scruffy looking guy get out of an old truck with a camper on it and sneak toward an old house. He recognized a colleague when he saw one and as he got closer he realized the truck was still running. An ironic smile spread across his face as he sat down behind the wheel.

Johnny stood motionless, hearing nothing he took a hesitant step toward the old garage; his truck waiting just beyond. At that moment, Jane came bustling out of the garden carrying a basket overflowing with carrots, chard, purple mountain spinach, and other greens. She was looking away from Johnny and he slipped back behind a trellis. He watched as she walked in the back door and decided to count to thirty before making a run for it. “One…Two…Thr.”
An angry screech in the form of “My turkey! Where’s my turkey!!” could be heard from the kitchen. At the same time, Johnny heard the familiar sound of his truck’s engine revving out on the road at the back of the property. He fought the urge to run in that direction and instead peeked around the corner of the house just in time to see Jane hurry out the back door carrying a single barreled goose gun that looked far too big for her to carry. She wielded it with authority however, and leveled it at his truck as it sped out of sight down the little road.

In her frustration all Jane could manage was an enraged “Turkey thief!” and then she spun around and went back inside to call 911. The old gun wasn’t loaded and in fact the firing pin had been removed years ago by her late husband who knew Jane’s occasional temper far too well. She leaned it in the corner and waited impatiently for someone to answer at the Sheriff’s Dept.

“911 do you have an emergency?”
“They got my turkey!” Jane said, still shaking with anger.
“Excuse me Ma’am?”
“They stole my Thanksgiving turkey right out of my kitchen!” Jane repeated.
“Calm down Ma’am, can you tell me what they looked like?”
“I came back from the garden and found the roasting pan on the kitchen floor. I have family coming over today. You have to find that turkey!” said Jane; her anger subsiding now and tears welling up in her eyes at the thought of her grandkids faces.
“Ma’am, I need some information…”
“And my Great Dane hid in his dog house through the whole thing!!” Jane sobbed.

In a few minutes the description of the truck was relayed to the Deputy on duty in the Groveland area who, knowing Johnny and his truck from past experiences; all of them negative, took up a position on Hwy 120 a little East of the Old priest Grade, and waited. While he waited he called Dispatch and got the details surrounding the turkey heist. He didn’t think he’d ever met Jane but knew how she must feel. Then he called home.

“Hi honey it’s me” said the Deputy
“Hi honey. Are you coming home early?”
“I wish I could but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”
“Oh, I was really hoping…”
“I know, I’m sorry. Listen, is the turkey ready?”
“Yes, I just took it out of the oven and it looks beautiful, why?”
“I need you to wrap it up in foil and bring it to me up here in Groveland.”
“You want me to do what? Everybody is here, I can’t just leave, and what are we going to eat? and and and…”
“I know I know. You can pick up a roasted one from the Deli on the way back.”
“Are you cra…”
“Please, just do it. I’ll explain when you get here”
“Why can’t you explain now?”
“Because the man of the hour is driving toward me and I want to meet him. I gotta go, see you soon.”

When Johnny’s truck went by, the Deputy was surprised to see it wasn’t Johnny driving. He initiated a traffic stop at the top of the grade and after determining Walden had a suspended license, the Deputy asked, “Where’s the turkey?” Walden looked at him like he was crazy.
“I don’t know nothin about no turkey” Walden said, wondering if this was some kind of joke.
“I know you stole the turkey said the Deputy, and you couldn’t have eaten it between here and where you stole it from. Did you toss it out the window?”

“Yer just tryin to trick me, I ain’t sayin nothing else till I talk to a lawyer.”

During an inventory search of the truck and camper, the Deputy realized a lot of the property in the back was remarkably similar to the items he’d been listing in his burglary and theft reports for the past two weeks. The one thing he didn’t find was a turkey. After some questioning it became clear that Walden had stolen the truck without knowing what was in it, but didn’t know anything about a stolen turkey.

“Crazy Hillbillies” he muttered as the Deputy deposited him in the back of his patrol car.
After it was all over, Walden was charged with Grand Theft of the truck, Johnny was charged with multiple counts of Burglary and Grand Theft.

And before they left the hill that night, the Deputy and his wife got to see a glow on the faces of Jane and her whole family when they presented them with a big, beautifully roasted turkey for Thanksgiving.

About a week later Jane became concerned about Stanley. He seemed to be keeping to his dog house an awful lot lately. She crawled in to take a closer look at him and discovered why. Though Stanley did his best to conceal it, in a dark corner were the remains of Jane’s Thanksgiving turkey and the undoing of Johnny Bedford and Gary Walden.

* The story is based on actual facts however, the names and circumstances of the people involved have been changed to protect their privacy.