Luverne resident arrested in statewide burglary ring

Published 4:38 pm Monday, April 25, 2011

By David Goodwin and Kevin Taylor
The Wetumpka Herald

An alleged boyfriend and girlfriend are suspected of being part of a burglary ring reaching as far south as Ozark and as far north as Elmore County, according to Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall.

Brandy Phillips Bracewell, 37, of Ozark and Christopher Alan Phelps of Luverne, 36, are facing burglary and theft charges in Montgomery County after being arrested Tuesday.

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More than $100,000 in property stolen in burglaries in at least five counties was seized Wednesday afternoon from a home on South Fleahop Road near Eclectic.

Elmore County and Montgomery County sheriff’s deputies converged on the home in Fleahop after Montgomery County investigators arrested Bracewell and Phelps in Luverne.

Marshall said the two are believed to be responsible for an undetermined amount of burglaries going as far back as January.

“Right now we have them booked into our jail where they are also facing charges in Elmore and Crenshaw counties so far,” Marshall said.

Lawnmowers, four-wheelers, lawn equipment, guns, televisions, video games and other merchandise was found in the home and numerous storage buildings at 41 S. Fleahop Road.

Elmore County Chief Investigator Terry Ward said the residents of the home are Harriet Sue Berdeux, 64, and Thomas Eugene Hiler, 74.

“Miss Berdeux is a family friend of the Phelps,” Ward said.

Investigators said some of the property seized at the suspects’ homes, as well as stolen items found in a Daleville pawn shop, lead them to the home in Fleahop. They said the Fleahop residents were “collectors” who the suspects got to store the stolen merchandise.

Ward said the residents cooperated with them Wednesday afternoon, and the case would be presented to the grand jury.

Ward said charges are pending against Bracewell and Phelps.

“Right now we are busy going through incident reports and making contact with the victims of these burglaries,” Ward added.

Investigators assisted by the Eclectic Police Department spent much of Wednesday afternoon seizing at least three truckloads of property that was known stolen and recording the serial numbers of other suspicious items in the house.

“We are going to go through all the property and try to make contact with the owners of this property to see if they can identify it,” Marshall added.

Bracewell and Phelps are being held in the Montgomery County Jail at the request of other law enforcement agencies.

Crenshaw County Chief Deputy Jimmy Lecroy said Phelps and Bracewell may be responsible for “numerous” burglaries and thefts in Luverne and the northern end of the county.