By Sam Jack
Cheney resident and Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett recovered a stolen antique truck after an off-duty police officer saw a post from Bennett that was widely shared on Facebook.
The truck was stolen from a storage shed in Goddard. Bennett made his initial post about the theft at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 29, and by 1:15 a.m. the following morning was updating it to say that the truck had been found.
The off-duty officer remembered seeing the truck parked in Wichita and called another officer to go recover it after seeing Bennett’s post.
“He saw that truck two nights before, and he knew it didn’t belong there, but didn’t have a stolen report,” Bennett said. “He made a mental note, and (when he saw the post), he said, ‘I know exactly where that’s at.’”
The truck, a 1951 GMC flatbed, had belonged to Bennett’s grandparents, Ed and Lynda Willems. Ed Willems converted it to run on propane instead of gasoline, and outfitted it with a homemade wooden bed.
“The two of them lived on a farm, halfway between Viola and Conway Springs,” Bennett said. “He bought the truck from someone in Conway in the ‘70s. Probably in the late ‘80s, he decided to clean it up, got the cab painted and put that bed on it. (He) drove it for another 15 years, around the farm.”
Bennett said he knows from his experience as a prosecutor that burglaries are distressing crimes for victims.
“People really feel, when their house gets broken into – or garage, shed, barn – it’s a real invasion. They feel very much violated, and those are tough cases for anybody to experience,” he said. “I know for my folks, it was very galling for them that someone would have the nerve to go into their place, bring a trailer, and just drive off with my grandfather’s truck like it was theirs to take. I certainly sympathize with people who feel that level of violation and upset.”