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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Cops sent on wild goose chase

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sheila Titus' vehicle that was stolen Friday, May 29 and wrecked at the intersection of Orr and Fowler Roads in Ash Flat. Photo/Tammy Curtis
Two stolen vehicles, a break-in and an alleged kidnapping were all in a day's work for Sharp County deputies and Detectives Mark Counts and Ken Guidry.

According to an affidavit obtained from the Sharp County Circuit Court, at approximately 4:40 a.m., May 29, Sheila Titus of Ash Flat woke up and discovered her 1998 Pontiac Grand Am being driven away from her home at a high rate of speed. Nearly 20 minutes later Ash Flat city workers reported a one vehicle accident near Orr and Fowler Roads in Ash Flat. When Sharp County deputies arrived at the scene, they found a woman standing under a tree.

The female was later identified as Sarah Mae Johnson, 24, of Cherokee Village.

Upon questioning, the female subject told the deputy that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint by a black man earlier in the night.

Due to suspicious activity, Johnson was taken to the Sharp County Sheriff's Department where she was read her Miranda rights and interviewed by Detectives Counts and Guidry.

Johnson told detectives that she had borrowed a vehicle from Tommy Hollis to go to Walmart around 12:30 a.m. and then to the car wash. She told detectives while at the car wash she was approached by a black man, who, at gun point, demanded her money. Johnson said after telling him she had no money, the man demanded she take him to find drugs. She said he followed her in a white Grand Am with Kansas license plates.

Johnson told detectives that she took the man to a friend's house and gave her friend's name as Amy. Detectives later determined that the residence was that of Amy Morman on Oak Street in Ash Flat. She told detectives that her kidnapper then took some of Amy's things and her purse.

She said they then attempted to leave the residence with the black male in the vehicle Johnson had been driving when it became stuck on some rocks. Johnson told detectives that the black man ordered her to put the things into a bag and to walk through the fields until they found a car with the keys in it.

Johnson said that once they found the vehicle, which was later determined to be the Titus vehicle, the black man stole it and drove it until he wrecked it. Following the wreck, Johnson said the black man disappeared into the woods with the guns and stolen items and she didn't see him again.

She then told detectives that she had been walking around trying to find a place to call the police, although she was only 150 feet from the location of the accident.

Detectives contacted Hollis, the man from whom Johnson had borrowed the vehicle. Johnson had reported the vehicle stolen just after 8 a.m.

Upon questioning, Hollis admitted to lending the vehicle to Johnson to go to Walmart between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, but became worried when she did not return with his rental car. Hollis said he called Johnson at 2:30 a.m. and she told him she would be back soon. He then called her an hour later and Johnson told Hollis she was on her way home.

Detectives recognized this as a discrepancy in the story, as this was the time frame in which the alleged kidnapping occurred.

Hollis also gave detectives the number of Rachel Hightower, a person who could verify his whereabouts during the timeframe. When contacted, Hightower confirmed that she had spoke with Hollis twice during the night and that he had voiced his concern about Johnson not returning his rental car. She said that she advised him to report the car stolen. Hightower also told the detectives that around 2:30 a.m. Hollis had called her and told her that Johnson had called him and told him she had wrecked the car and needed someone to come pick her up. Hightower said that since Hollis had no vehicle to pick her up, he asked her to. Hightower told detectives that she refused to go pick Johnson up and further advised them that Johnson knew the woman at the residence where the purse had been stolen. She told detectives that Johnson had been at the Morman residence recently.

That same morning, Amy Morman called to report that when she awoke that morning her door was open and her wallet, checkbook, $160 in cash and various medications were missing.

Following an intensive search of the area, deputies and detectives couldn't find any sign of the alleged black male subject.

Detectives believe that Johnson, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, made the story of the kidnapping up. They feel that she went to the home of her friend Amy Morman alone and stole the medications and money, then in an attempt to leave, got Hollis' rental car stuck on some rocks. Detectives think that in her drug induced state she wandered around until she found the Titus vehicle with the keys still in the ignition and stole it. Due to the amount of damage on the passenger side of the Grand Am, detectives do not believe she could have been in the passenger seat, because had she been there, she would have suffered injuries.

In regard to the belongings, detectives think she must have lost them while wandering between the Morman and Titus homes.

An affidavit for the warrant for the arrest of Sarah Mae Johnson charges her with residential burglary a Class B felony and motor vehicle theft.

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