FARMINGTON — The mystery behind several vehicles stolen and later found abandoned on parking lots has been solved with the arrest of a Farmington man. Police are charging James Harris Jr., age 37, with stealing a motor vehicle and distribution of cocaine and another controlled substance near a school.
Harris was arrested on April 25 after a witness watched him steal a car near the apartment complex where he lives on the north side of town. Members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol stopped and arrested Harris out of the stolen 1999 Oldsmobile Alero at about 10:30 a.m. after the Farmington Police Department issued a stop-and-hold for questioning alert to all law enforcement agencies only minutes earlier.
Police say Harris had been a suspect in the theft of several vehicles in past months. It was their belief that he, whether acting alone or with accomplices, was using the autos to drive to St. Louis and buy drugs. He would return to Farmington and abandon the stolen ride in a parking lot at or near his home.
This time a break in the investigation came when a witness happened to see Harris steal the car. The owner, a home healthcare worker, had parked outside an address near the apartment complex and was carrying items back and forth into the home where she was to work that morning. The witness told police when the woman went into the house, Harris walked from the apartment complex and got into the car and drove off. When the car’s owner came back outside, the witness told her what had happened. The police were called and a stop-and-hold was issued.
A highway patrolman spotted the stolen car headed north on U.S. 67 near the State Route 110 exit. The driver was pulled over, and two detectives from the Farmington Police Department drove to the scene and took custody of Harris. The car was turned over to the owner.
This wasn’t Harris’ first documented case of reportedly stealing a car. Police say he already had a pending case of theft of a motor vehicle after he stole and wrecked a car and left the scene. He was already a suspect in at least three other vehicle thefts.
This time officers reportedly booked Harris into the county jail on charges of stealing a motor vehicle, and served warrants for distribution of cocaine and another controlled substance near a school — incidents which happened at different times. His bond was set at $57,000.