Police arrest two in home burglary, arson; call it a 'ring' of crimes
CARROLL COUNTY -- A Carroll County man and woman were arrested earlier this month after allegedly burglarizing a Eureka Springs home and then destroying it with fire, police revealed this week.
Those suspects, and their alleged crime, are only one link in what police are now describing as a burglary ring involving as many as 10 separate cases spanning several years and two states.
Darrell Allen and Tracy Matthews were arrested on April 11, after police found what they believe to be stolen merchandise at Allen's home, off of Highway 143, north of Berryville.
Allen, 48, was charged with two counts of theft, as well as burglary and arson. Matthews, 46, was charged with theft, burglary, arson, and possessing drug paraphernalia. Both suspects are being held at the Carroll County Detention Center on $150,000 bond.
The pair are suspected of burglarizing the home of Terry and Vivian Thornton, on Rourke Road, on April 7 and then setting it ablaze.
Sgt. Daniel Klatt, of the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, said the arson investigation was still ongoing.
Investigators took samples from the rubble and sent them to the Arkansas State Crime Lab, to determine whether an accelerant, such as gasoline, had contributed to the fire. Police are still awaiting those test results.
Klatt said police had more conclusive evidence linking the pair to the burglary. It had been difficult, he said, to determine just how much was stolen from the home, because it was burned so badly.
However, those items which could be documented as missing included car tires, a special-edition four wheeler, and a large amount of furniture and collectibles.
Investigators began to suspect Allen, Sheriff Bob Grudek said, when he posted some of the stolen items for sale on an e-commerce site.
When police later visited his home, they found a four-wheeler identical to the one stolen sitting in the yard -- for sale. They also found Allen installing some shiny new tires on his truck and trailer.
When police questioned Allen, he invited them inside, where they saw more items they now believe to have been stolen.
Allen and Matthews were arrested that day. Klatt said police later executed two search warrants on the home and recovered some of the items.
Since then, Klatt said, police have executed warrants on six other properties and recovered in excess of 200 pieces of evidence.
"We actually had to rent a storage building to put this stuff in," Klatt said.
Police have linked the recovered items -- and Allen and Matthews -- to as many as 10 cases in Carroll County, Klatt said, as well as in Barry and Stone counties, in Missouri.
Police would not release details of those other investigations, citing the ongoing nature of the case, though Klatt said one other incident might have also involved arson. The fire, however, was still under investigation, he said.
Klatt also said that police believe Matthews and Allen had help in some of their alleged crimes.
"At this time, this is still a very active and ongoing case," Klatt said. "More arrests are anticipated, and more search warrants are possible."
Klatt said police were seeking at least five additional suspects in the case, though he said Allen was believed to be the ring leader.
"It's definitely something he aspired to make a career out of," Klatt said.
Grudek said the case had been exhausting work for his officers -- Klatt has personally devoted some 130 hours to the case in the last two weeks. Still, the sheriff said the work had been well worthwhile.
Grudek noted that there had been a noticeable increase in the number of burglaries during the last year, many of which remain unsolved. Now, he said, many of those crimes have been linked to Allen and Matthews.
"It's nice to be able to tie them together like this," Grudek said.
Police are asking anyone who recently purchased or received property from Allen or Matthews to contact Klatt at 870-423-2901.