Center Grove car theft leads to home invasion

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. — Johnson County authorities are investigating several individuals for possible involvement in a car theft and attempted home burglary.

Dawn Whitaker reported her 17-year old son’s 1996 red Jaguar stolen from their driveway in the Buckmoor Manor subdivision Tuesday morning. Whitaker told police her son had left the car unlocked with the keys inside. The thieves also got away with her son’s wallet, golf clubs, Center Grove Schools iPad and other school materials, which were in the car at the time.

The family’s garage door opener was also in the car when it was stolen.

Later that afternoon, Whitaker says she was at home when she heard the garage door go up and the door leading into their house open. Thinking her son had come home, she called out to him. But nobody answered.

“Then it was like, ‘they have my garage door opener,’” Whitaker said. “And then I started freaking out.”

When Whitaker ran downstairs to see who was in the house, she says the garage door was closing again and the person had run off. She never got a look at the person or whether they were in a vehicle or on foot.

“It’s definitely scary,” Whitaker said. “Especially when we feel like we’re from a safe community.”

“I will never go unprotected again. Next time I go to run downstairs and I don’t know who it is, I’ll have a gun,” she said.

“When you leave a garage door opener in your vehicle, that leaves access to your garage,” said Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox. “Which typically leaves access to your house available to those individuals that are out stealing items.”

A few hours after the garage door incident, a Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy reported seeing the stolen Jaguar traveling southbound on Morgantown Road near Smith Valley Road. The deputy initiated a traffic stop after the driver pulled east onto Russell, a short distance away. Police say Michael Totty, 37, got out of the car and told deputies he had been asked by someone else to drive the car to a nearby residence to pick up marijuana for a friend. Totty reportedly said he knew something was suspicious about the car because of a pair of rubber gloves inside the vehicle.

Totty was arrested and taken to the Johnson County Jail. But it’s not yet clear if Totty is the person who stole the Jaguar from the Whitaker home, or tried to get into the house through the garage.

Cox says the investigation has led to a second individual who may be involved.

“We learned that that individual was wanted on a warrant on a separate offense,” Cox said. “That individual was picked up and is currently being interviewed by the investigations staff.”

Cox says his department has also apprehended a third individual after a homeowner in the Highland Park subdivision reported an attempted break-in there Wednesday morning. It’s possible that person could also be involved, but authorities won’t be able to say for sure until each individual has been interviewed and the investigation is complete, Cox said.

Whitaker says the whole situation has changed her mind set about home security.

“I didn’t think much of keeping everything locked up and protected,” she said. “But I certainly will now going forward. A gun permit is in the near future.”

“If you want to keep your family safe and your property safe, the best thing to do is to take that garage door opener in with you during the evening hours,” Cox said.

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