Truck stolen in California recovered in Washington City

Stock image by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Richfield man is in jail after officers in Washington City recovered a semitractor stolen from a trucking company in Southern California that ended up in the parking lot of a local grocery store.

Rondo Don Keele, 60, of Richfield, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Nov. 3, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

On Wednesday, officers were dispatched shortly after noon to a report of a recovered vehicle that was stolen out of California, according to the probable cause statement filed in 5th District Court.

Washington City Police Chief Jason Williams said it was a semi that was stolen from a trucking company located in Barstow, about 115 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The officer en route was advised by emergency dispatch that the semi was equipped with a tracking system that alerted the trucking company to its location, which happened to be in the parking lot of the Albertsons grocery store on Red Cliffs Drive.

Officers arrived to find the semi unoccupied and shortly after the vehicle was cleared, a man approached police and told them that he was the owner of the truck.

The man’s statement was inconsistent with information obtained from the trucking company, which was that the man in the parking lot, identified as 60-year-old Rondo Keele, of Richfield, Utah, was a driver for the company but was fired when he arrived at his employer in Barstow the previous day.

While still at the business, the yard manager collected the suspect’s keys as he handed him his last paycheck, and then gave Keele the opportunity to gather his things from inside of the cab, the trucking company said.

While the yard manager waited, the suspect returned to the semi and using an extra key “he had lied about having,” the officer noted, Keele drove off, leaving that yard manager standing there.

The truck was tracked as it made its way into Utah, and the company contacted police to report it stolen once it appeared to be stationary for a long period of time, left unoccupied in the parking lot on Red Cliffs Drive while the driver was in the motel room.

Ironically, Williams said, the trucking company “was trying to be nice to the guy, and even offered to put him up in a hotel until he could return to Richfield when this happened.”

Back in Utah, officers collected the keys to the semi that was recovered by police, while the suspect was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and booked on second-degree felony theft.

As of Friday, Keele remained in jail on $10,000 bail.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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