Tracking program helps Glenpool church recover stolen electronics
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Saturday, August 18, 2012
8/18/12 at 7:39 AM
GLENPOOL - Don't be surprised if Pastor Joe Jones sinks his teeth into Apple stock.
A tracking application of the MacIntosh computer maker, along with the persistence of a parishioner-policeman, enabled Jones to locate and retrieve about $12,000 worth of computers and other electronic equipment that were burglarized this week from his Glenpool church.
"Let's just say I'm a Mac fan for life now," said Jones, pastor of The Landing Community Church.
After attending a church service Wednesday night, off-duty Glenpool Police Officer Drew Mullenix jumped in his personal car and caught up with a teenager who had the tracked computer, said Tee Nelson, the church's office manager, who had discovered the burglary that morning.
By the following day, everything that was stolen, save for one of 10 computers, had been returned to the church, Mullenix said.
"He's our hero," Nelson said of Mullenix. "Can you imagine losing your computer, one computer? Just imagine trying to rebuild it.
"To think about what we were going to have to rebuild ... was just overwhelming. For them to get it back is just priceless."
Nelson entered the church office Wednesday morning to find a small safe busted on the floor and a brick-broken window in the rear of the building, she said. Stolen along with the computers, which included Jones' personal MacBook Pro and iPad, were a 36-inch television/VCR, two bass guitars, a Wii, an Xbox and a karaoke machine, Nelson said.
Aware that he had a "Find My iPhone" app on his iPhone, Jones called an Apple Store worker, who told Jones the application would work on all his devices. Rather than choosing to remotely erase his information, he instead locked it down, meaning the tracking mechanism would be activated once his MacBook was turned on.
He left a message on the computer that read: "Please return this as soon as possible. We're praying for you, and we know you'll do the right thing."
After delivering a sermon Wednesday night, Jones noticed that his iPhone had homed in on a signal, he said. He sent an online map of the location to Mullenix, who hopped in a car with his wife and tracked the computer to a 17-year-old, who said he had gotten it from a friend of a friend, the officer said.
"The kid, right when I got there, said, 'I just hung up the phone,' " Mullenix said. " 'I left them (church officials) a message. I was going to return it.'"
Authorities eventually arrested two people.
"The casebreaker was finding my laptop," Jones said. "Once we found that, it spun into everything else. By 2 o'clock Thursday morning, we had recovered everything."
Arrested on second-degree burglary and knowingly concealing stolen property complaints were Dominic Coulter, 19, and Nathan Wineland, 18, both of Glenpool. The 17-year-old wasn't arrested, Mullenix said.
"Our key word for the church this year was 'tenacious,' " Jones said. "This was such an example of a tenacious spirit. If I wouldn't have been diligent enough, tenacious enough to do what I had to do to get things set up, we never would have got the signal. If Drew wouldn't have responded to the signal immediately when we had it, within 24 hours that stuff is gone."
The Jenks Police Department, as well as a neighbor who took down a tag number of a suspicious truck at the church, assisted in the case. Finding stolen property is rare, Mullenix said.
"You just don't see it much, because that stuff moves so quick, whether it's for drugs or money," he said. "They have their own little underground system where they can move their stolen goods without going through the system most of the time.
"You can call it luck. You can call it what you want - divine intervention. I was excited that one thing led to another. We're just happy it worked out."
Original Print Headline: Technology, tenacity break church-theft case
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Joe Jones, pastor at The Landing church, talks with Glenpool Police's Drew Mullenix about stolen computers at the church on Friday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
The Landing is an interdenominational church at 596 W. 141st St. in Glenpool. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World