MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Three people are facing burglary charges after authorities in Blount County thwarted an attempt to steal a catalytic converter from a van at a Maryville church after midnight Friday.
Deputies responded to a church on Calderwood Highway shortly after midnight Friday on a report of a suspicious vehicle where two people were spotted near one of the church vans and a third was underneath the van.
Three suspects were taken into custody. One attempted to flee on foot but stopped when a deputy ordered them to the ground. Deputies observed burglary tools near the van and observed damage to the vehicle’s exhaust pipe near the catalytic convertor.
One reportedly admitted to attempting to steal the catalytic converter for money.
John William Hinkle, 26, of Knoxville was charged with possession of burglary tools, burglary of a motor vehicle and vandalism. He was booked into jail on a $13,500 bond.
Jonathan Hans Wellman, 19, of Knoxville was charged with possession of burglary tools and burglary of a motor vehicle. He was booked into jail on a $6,000.
Hannah Marie Handmacher, 20, of Speedwell was charged with burglary of a motor vehicle. She was booked into jail on a $3,500 bond.
According to the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, a staff member at the church saw the same suspicious vehicle in the parking lot the previous night when someone attempted to remove a catalytic converter from a van, prompting the staff member to spend the night at the church in an effort to stop the burglary.
“In this case, a member of the church staff witnessed these three individuals attempting to burglarize one of the church vans and he immediately reported it to 911,” Sheriff Berrong said. “Our deputies were able to respond quickly and catch the criminals in the act. Please don’t hesitate to report any suspicious activity. Sheriff’s deputies are constantly patrolling the county and our response time is normally within a few minutes of receiving a call. The sooner you report suspicious activity, the better chance we have of preventing a crime from occurring.”
Catalytic converter thefts are common because they are composed of valuable precious metals. The state of Tennessee recently passed a law to make it more difficult to purchase or sell an unattached catalytic converter as a single item in an effort to reduce these types of crimes. Those who violate the law can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.