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Church burglary case heads to district court

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The case of a man arrested while riding down the street on a lawnmower that he allegedly stole from a Roswell church will head to district court.

Tyler Lee Tucker, 21, of Roswell, on Wednesday waived his right to a preliminary examination in Chaves County Magistrate Court, according to electronic court documents. As a result, the case will be bound over to New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court.

According to court documents, Tucker faces two counts of burglary and three counts of breaking and entering. He is also charged with one count each of unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, criminal damage to property under $1,000 and larceny over $250.

Police arrested Tucker March 9 after an officer saw him driving a green John Deere ride-on lawnmower southbound on North Montana Avenue with the headlights turned off, according to an affidavit filed in Magistrate Court.

When stopped by police at the intersection of North Montana Avenue and Highland Road, Tucker initially told police the mower belonged to his grandfather. He explained he just finished mowing the alley behind a house owned by his grandfather.

Police though were skeptical, with an absence of mud and grass on the blades, suggesting the mower had not been used in a while, the affidavit states.

Police later called a number on the keychain of the mower keys and learned the mower was recently purchased by St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in the 2900 block of North Main Street. A pair of keys later found on Tucker are believed to have been stolen from the church and used to get access to the shed where the mower was housed.

An officer made contact with the owner of the church building, who said a lawnmower was stolen from one of the church’s two sheds. The officer subsequently learned the church and two sheds behind the building had been broken into.

The lawnmower, valued at $1,600, was reported stolen, according to the police report.

A safe inside the church was broken into. Cash in the amount of $115, checks worth $915 and a laptop worth $500 were also reported stolen. A vehicle battery was also reported stolen from a nearby construction truck.

Daniel Tisdel, pastor at St. Mark’s, later commented on Facebook that the laptop and checks were found.

Police discovered the lock on a fence on the property and a door on the northeast side of the building were damaged.

A pair of shoeprints pressed into the mud were found on the property, which were later found to match the shoes worn by Tyler when he was approached by police on the lawnmower, according to court documents.

Tyler later denied he had stolen the mower or knew that it was stolen.

Court documents state Tyler told police he was walking home from a friend’s house when he saw the mower with the keys in it parked in a field on North Montana Avenue.

Tyler added that he was driving the lawnmower home because he did not feel like walking home.

In an interview with police, Tyler allegedly admitted to entering the church through the west side doors, but ceased talking after he learned a camera was on during the interview.

He has since been released on his own recognizance pending trial.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.