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GPS equipment helped cops crack rural burglaries

Ann Marie Ames/The Janesville Gazette

(Published Oct. 15, 2007, 2:41 p.m.)

The Rock County Sheriff's Department plans to buy the same GPS tracking equipment Walworth County detectives used to find and arrest two suspects in a rash of rural burglaries.

"It is a very handy piece of equipment to have, and we will be getting one soon," said Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden.

The equipment can easily be planted on a vehicle, Spoden said.

The possibility of other suspects in the case has not been ruled out, he said, but two Janesville men are the prime suspects in more than 30 burglaries in the two counties since August.

Charged with burglary and misdemeanor theft are:

-- James G. Brereton, 41, of 4208 N.W. River Road, Janesville

-- Brian J. Conaway, 40, of 2115 Schaller St., Janesville
        
More charges are pending as detectives interview victims, Spoden said.

A victim's description of the suspects' car and license plate tipped Walworth County detectives to obtain a court order on Oct. 5 to install a GPS device on the suspect's light blue Pontiac, according to the criminal complaint.

Walworth County Judge James Carlson sealed the order, which cannot be opened until criminal charges are filed in Walworth County, a court employee said.

No charges had been filed against the men in Walworth County as of Friday.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Rock County Court:

Detectives tracked the car Tuesday morning as it drove around rural Rock County. At 12:13 p.m. the car stopped for about 10 minutes on West Stark Road in Janesville Township.

Two Rock County detectives later checked residences on West Stark Road and found a door kicked in on one home. A computer monitor was missing, drawers were pulled out and the contents of a jewelry box dumped.

Patrol officers stopped the Pontiac at Highway 14 and Milton Avenue in Janesville and took the men in custody at gunpoint.

They found a computer monitor in the back seat. When Conaway got out of the car, he dropped a handful of $100 bills into the ditch.

Police recovered $1,300 from the car.

Brereton and Conaway made their initial appearance in Rock County Court on Thursday and are being held in the Rock County Jail on cash bonds of $3,500 and $6,000 respectively.

Spoden and Walworth County Sheriff David Graves gave each other's deputies "carte blanche" to work in each other's jurisdictions, Spoden said, which is a rare but not unheard of action.

Walworth County detectives monitored the GPS equipment while Rock County patrol officers "saturated" the area of the burglaries, Spoden said.

Walworth County Patrol Division Capt. Scott McClory said the investigations are ongoing. It is too early to declare Brereton and Conaway the only suspects, McClory said, but he was not aware of any further rural burglaries since their arrest.

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