Lincoln man found in Iowa cornfield; ends 3-day crime spree, authorities say

2013-09-24T11:50:00Z 2013-09-24T20:41:10Z Lincoln man found in Iowa cornfield; ends 3-day crime spree, authorities sayBy LORI PILGER / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Sheriff's deputies in Iowa flushed out a Lincoln man hiding in an Iowa cornfield on Saturday morning to put an end to a three-day crime spree that started in Nebraska, authorities said.

Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner said investigators believe Michael A. Beard, 31, stole four vehicles, tried to steal three others and committed at least two burglaries between Thursday morning and his arrest Saturday.

The convoluted spree crossed several jurisdictions, including at least five counties and two states, and left law enforcement piecing together the details.

Authorities believe it started Thursday between midnight and 3:30 a.m. when Beard stole a Dodge Neon from the 4900 block of West Huntington Avenue in northwest Lincoln's Oak Hill neighborhood.

The car hadn't yet been reported stolen when it was found about 7 a.m. in a burning garage about 20 miles away near 80th Street and Agnew Road, Wagner said. It's not clear how the fire started, but it caused an estimated $20,000 in damage.

The Neon's owner tipped off police that Beard may have been involved and they quickly developed him as a suspect, but then played catch-up as they tracked his trail north.

After driving the Neon through the door of the garage, Wagner said, Beard is believed to have kicked in the back door of a nearby house, stealing $10,000 in property including a 1999 Toyota Tacoma.

By 10 a.m., the pickup sat abandoned in a ditch along a rural intersection near Yutan, the result of a single-vehicle crash. Saunders County Sheriff's deputies found almost all of the stolen belongings from the Agnew Road break-in.

But then the trail went cold until 3 p.m., when a woman called an Omaha electrician asking why someone driving a company van just tried to steal her car in Omaha.

The owner soon learned someone had kicked in the back door of his home near Yutan and stolen the 1997 Dodge van, jewelry and other property valued at $40,000.

Authorities would learn later of another failed attempt to steal a car in Omaha early Friday near 61st and McKinley streets just off Interstate 680, where they found the stolen van abandoned, an empty Bud Light can inside.

They believe Beard stole a 1991 Ford F-150 from a Douglas County home next.

And a Nebraska Game and Parks officer at the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge east of Blair spotted Beard in the truck about 3:30 p.m. and told authorities he sped off when the officer approached, leaving behind a necklace and a luggage tag tied to the Douglas County burglary, which hadn't been reported yet.

Things came to a head shortly after 4 p.m. Friday in the Modale, Iowa, area, where Beard was spotted getting out of the F-150 and trying to steal another vehicle.

When the owner and others confronted him, boxing him in, Beard bailed out and ran into a cornfield, Wagner said.

Law enforcement, delayed by heavy rains, flushed him out early Saturday and arrested him.

"The citizens involvement here was crucial to prevent more vehicles from being stolen and in helping to apprehend him," Wagner said.

He said they haven't yet hashed out which jurisdiction will get Beard first, but he was being held on a warrant out of Saunders County.

Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com or follow her on Twitter at LJSpilger.

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