Police: Thief returned to crime scene
January 22, 2004
Robert Wickham Jr., 28, of Antioch, Calif., was arrested Wednesday outside the Donner Park 76 station after returning to the scene of an auto theft that Truckee Police believe he committed the day before.
Truckee police Sgt. Jeff Nichols said the story officers got out of Wickham’s friend, who claimed to have been with Wickham when he allegedly stole a 1994 Chevrolet Suburban, was that the two men had some kind of accident while heading eastbound on Interstate 80 near Donner Lake.
They were driving what appeared to be a late-1980s Chevrolet Camaro which suffered multiple flat tires while on the interstate. According to Eric Crain, assistant manager of the station, a tow truck then brought the two men and their car to the 76 station on Donner Pass Road near Donner Memorial State Park and parked it next to the Suburban that was later stolen.
Stranded in Truckee in the early morning of Jan. 20, Wickham allegedly decided to break into the Suburban parked next to the Camaro and drive it to his destination in Reno.
According to Crain, the Suburban had just had $1,800 dollars worth of work done to it and was waiting for its owner to come pick it up. Crain said the Suburban was locked but that the keys were inside the vehicle.
Crain claimed that the tow truck driver brought the Camaro in at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 20 and by 6 a.m., when the first employees arrived at the station, the Suburban was gone. Station employees also found footprints in the snow around the rear of where the Suburban was parked.
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“It was just too coincidental,” Crain said. “At 5:30 a.m. the Suburban was sitting there and at 6 a.m. it was gone.”
The Suburban was reported stolen to the Truckee Police by its owner later in the day on Jan. 20.
It was Crain who informed officers of Wickham’s return to the scene of the crime on Wednesday.
Wickham, the friend with him in the Camaro, and a couple of other friends returned to the station with a spare set of wheels to put on the Camaro. The wheels were reportedly low-rider style, with chrome rims and small whitewall tires. Upon seeing the group working on the Camaro, Crain immediately called the police, who arrested Wickham at approximately 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Police were able to locate the stolen Suburban Thursday in Reno, and as of press time were processing the vehicle for evidence.
Wickham is currently being held in the Nevada County Jail.
Truckee Police Commander David Dohn was pleased with the cooperation the police department received from the 76 station employees and the Reno Police Department. “I think this is excellent police work by the officers involved, particularly Officer (Russell) Walsh. Walsh did most of the work on it. And I think it’s just another case of excellent cooperation between neighboring agencies. The Reno Police Department helped out a lot,” Dohn said.