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Good Samaritan’s truck stolen by homeless couple he attempted to help

A homeless man in Fruitland Park has been arrested for stealing a truck belonging to a Good Samaritan who fed and clothed the suspected thief and his girlfriend.

Thaddaeus Dewayne Thornburg
Thaddaeus Dewayne Thornburg

Thaddaeus Dewayne Thornburg, 29, was taken into Blackford County Jail in Indianna on a Lake County warrant concerning theft charges. He was transferred back to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to face charges for last year’s incident. 

On the morning of July 10, 2023, an officer with the Tavares Police Department responded to 1506 Pleasant Street regarding the theft of a vehicle and several power tools, according to an affidavit of probable cause out of Lake County. The victim advised that he owned a black 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 valued at $3,800. 

The victim advised that on July 6, 2023, while driving to the Dollar General on State Road 19, he noticed a young couple, one of which was Thornburg, walking out of the store. They asked him for directions to the animal shelter, and he offered to give them a ride there. After retrieving their dog, the victim took them back to his house, the affidavit said. 

The couple offered to do some work around the victim’s house in exchange for helping them. He also bought them dinner, gave them clothes and drove them to their “friend’s” house somewhere in Leesburg at about 11:00 p.m. The friend turned them away, so the victim took them back home with him and offered a tent to them which they took, the affidavit said. 

The following morning, the victim went back to the couple’s campsite behind the Dollar General in Tavares, located at 914 S. Duncan Drive. He once again brought them back to his house to help with fixing his drainage ditch. It was then he learned neither of them had working phones, so he took them to the Metro phone store and bought them two new phones on his account. They worked more on the drainage ditch and returned to the woods to sleep around 10 p.m., the affidavit said. 

The following Saturday morning, the victim went back to the campsite and gathered the couple with their belongings for more work. Somewhere between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., they told him they needed to go to Walmart to get dog food and other provisions, so he offered his truck for them to use. This was the last time he saw the couple and his vehicle, and they stopped answering the phones, the affidavit said. 

The victim was unsure of the couple’s identities. He stated the woman was “Chey” and the man was “Thad,” both of which were recently released from Marion and Lake County Jails, respectively. “Chey” was short for Cheyanne, who was 18 or 19 years old, while “Thad” was in his 20s. This information was used to locate both individuals who were both originally from Indiana, the affidavit said. 

Due to the victim being deprived of his vehicle and tools, all were entered as stolen. The tools totaled about $7,780 worth of stolen items, including a $500 Makita 7” grinder and two $2,500 Ridgid Boxes with various tools inside, the affidavit said. 

Two photo lineups were created which were observed by the victim’s wife on July 15, 2023. She confidently and positively identified both subjects, including Thornburg, during this time, the affidavit said. 

The stolen vehicle was last seen on a license plate recognition system on July 8, 2023, around 1:35 p.m. near 1012 N. Pine Avenue in Ocala. It did not hit off any other LPRs since that date at the time of the affidavit. 

The officer spoke with the victim’s wife again on July 16, 2023, who confirmed with her husband that he gave the keys to Thornburg who then got into the vehicle behind the wheel. He drove away with “Chey” in the passenger’s seat, the affidavit said. 

Thornburg was ultimately taken in for grand theft and grand theft auto on Tuesday. He was transported to the Lake County Jail with bond set at $7,000.

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