Two Chester men arrested and charged with stealing auto parts

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The arrests of two men may have put the brakes on a crime spree, involving car repair shops.

Police said Kenneth Stevens and James Strickland, stole thousands of dollars in auto parts, over the course of about a year.

Strickland is in jail, Stevens is home after bonding out.

Police said they hit auto repair shops and other businesses along the Jeff Davis Highway corridor in Chester.

One business owner tells me, batteries were cut out of more than a dozen cars, including his own.

In one fell swoop last December,  D & A Auto owner John Eversole said he lost about $3500 in car batteries and related parts.

"There were 14 cars lined up here and they got all 14 batteries. (In one night?) In one night," said Eversole.

Eversole said the crooks dodged a surveillance camera, but leaving the crime scene wasn't easy.

"They jumped that fence and another fence back there somewhere while they were carrying them," said Eversole.

Along with customer cars, his own jeep was among the targets.

"You could see where the battery was sitting all they did was just open it up and just cut the cable ends right off of it and ripped the battery out of it," said Eversole.

Police said roommates Kenneth Stevens and James Strickland began their crime spree last January.

Silva's Auto was hit twice.  Owner Gene Silva said 15 catalytic converters were stolen.

"I had to replace them no choice," said Silva.

The suspects are accused of taking the hot parts to metal recyclers in Richmond to trade for cash.

Silva paid $280 for this catalytic converter, it's brand new.

Police said the crooks would cut catalytic converters off used cars and turn around and trade them in for 80 bucks each.

Police said an informant came forward about the crime duo.

Strickland was arrested in February, Stevens last month.  He's back home.

"I'm looking for Kenneth Stevens, he's not here," answered a woman at Stevens' house.

Eversole said as if his case couldn't get any more bizarre, he picked up the phone one day thinking it was the detective, it wasn't.

"iIt was actually the thief calling he was trying to get an alibi as to why it wasn't him that did it," said Eversole.

Police said both men also stole copper wiring from other businesses, including Dominion Virginia Power and a construction company.

Strickland has a bond hearing later this month.

Both men have trial dates set for May.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.