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New technology leads to seven arrests in five days

  • Benny Lowe

  • Ciara Hatmaker

  • Michael Shears

  • Nathan Welch

  • Raymond Settles

  • Angie Byrge

  • Angie Byrge

In the span of five days, seven individuals are facing criminal charges for a range of offenses thanks to a new technology that automatically reads license plates on vehicles passing by.

It’s a new tool being utilized by the deputies with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office and it is giving law enforcement — deputies patrolling the roads — a “real time” information aimed at retrieving stolen vehicles and arresting those responsible for stealing them.

According to a press release issued last Thursday by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, the new license plate reader has become a valuable tool.

Once a vehicle’s license plate is entered into the sheriff’s office database, deputies — and other law enforcement agencies — receive texts alerting them to the current location and direction of travel, and a photo as well, of the vehicle.

This “real time” information gives the sheriff’s office and other agencies a faster response time and has increased the chances of apprehension. Using this technology recently resulted in a productive five days for Anderson County sheriff’s deputies.

Deputy Adam Warran noticed a white Toyota Corolla heading north on Clinch Avenue on Jan. 23. The license plate had been entered as having been reported stolen by the Knoxville Police Department.

Warren pulled the car over in the parking lot of Town Talk 185 and asked the drive of the car, Ciara Hatmaker, 22, of Clinton, to get of the vehicle.

When told why she was stopped, Hatmaker said the car belonged to her boyfriend, Nathan Welch, the press release stated. A further check on the car’s VIN showed it being listed by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office as a stolen vehicle.

“A search of the car revealed burglary tools, two sets of bolt cutters, two pry bars, a floor jack, and a vehicle lock-out kit,” the release said. “The lockout kit included a ‘slim-jim,’ wedge and other items designed to open locked vehicles. There were three other license plates located in the vehicle, but they had not been reported as stolen. The catalytic converter had recently been cut off the vehicle,” the release said.

Hatmaker was arrested.

She bonded out on Jan. 25, but she found herself in trouble once again.

She was later a passenger in a stolen car with her boyfriend, Nathan Welch, 37 of Clinton, who crashed the vehicle while evading a Tennessee state trooper on Clinton Highway in Anderson County.

He is charged with speeding, reckless driving, theft of property $10,000-$60,000, driving on revoked license, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“Welch is still incarcerated at our detention facility,” the release said.

• Deputy Colton Van Dyke pulled over a car at 950 S. Charles Seivers Blvd. in Clinton on Jan. 23, after the license plate came back as stolen.

“The car was being driven by a Kentucky citizen, Raymond Settles. Settles, 44, stated he did not recognize the plate that was displayed on the vehicle, which was a Michigan registration. When asking Settles for identification, he provided a fake ID,” the release said.

Anderson County Dispatch Center confirmed Settles had an active warrant out of Kentucky and he was initially arrested for that.

As part of the investigation, Van Dyke checked the vehicle identification number with our dispatch center and confirmed the vehicle was stolen out of Michigan. The vehicle had the back glass broken out, and the center console had been removed.

Van Dyke conducted a search of the vehicle and found a bag containing a green leafy substance in a carrying bag. Upon further search of the vehicle, he located a bag containing a white crystal substance in the center console, along with two scales, multiple small Ziploc bags, a pipe, and a straw with white residue, all in the center console of the vehicle.

After weighing the contents of the bag containing the white crystal substance (5.8 grams), Van Dyke field tested the contents of the bag and received a positive result for methamphetamine. Settles was charged with theft of property $10,000-$60,000; theft of property $1,000 or less; criminal impersonation; fugitive from justice; simple possession; possession of drug paraphernalia; and manufacture/sell/possession of methamphetamine.

Settles is still incarcerated in the Anderson County detention facility with no bond.

• Deputy Caleb Laxton received an alert from a plate reader around 2:30 p.m. Jan. 25 that a stolen truck was heading toward Peach Orchard Road.

Laxton located a green Ford F-150 matching the description of one that had been reported stolen.

Laxton turned around on the vehicle to try to catch up to it. He observed the vehicle turn in to a residence on Peach Orchard road, where he conducted a stop. Dispatch confirmed that the vehicle was stolen. After giving verbal commands for the driver to step out of the vehicle, both Benny Lowe, 39 of Clinton and the driver, and Angie Byrge, 41 of Clinton, complied and were charged with theft.

Lowe and Byrge are currently out on bond with pending charges.

• On Jan. 25 Deputy Sharon Baird received an alert from the license plate reader of the vehicle of wanted suspect, Michael Shears, 33 of Maryville.

Based on the reader information, Baird found Shears’ car in the Walmart parking lot in Clinton.

Anderson County Sheriff’s Investigator Robert Hubbs and Baird made contact with Shears upon his exit from the store and placed him into custody.

Shears’ girlfriend, Taylor White, 21 of Maryville, came out a few minutes later with a backpack containing stolen clothing and a stolen bolt cutter valued at $105.30. Additionally, both were allegedly in possession of heroin.

Shears was charged with burglary and manufacture/sell/possession of controlled substance and is currently in jail with a $35,000 bond.

White was charged manufacture/sell/possession of controlled Substance and is in jail on a $25,000 bond.