Suspected catalytic converter thief busted in Republic

Steve Chapman

Ronald Willis

Willis scheduled for court appearance Dec. 1
An Aurora man is accused to stealing five catalytic converters during two different incidents in Republic. Ronald Neal Willis, 44, faces five charges of stealing in Greene County.
First alleged theft discovered after incident at Walmart
According to the probable cause statement in the first case, Willis was stopped by officers with the Republic Police Department on Thursday, July 1, after a loss prevention associate at the Republic Walmart claimed that Willis and another person attempted to leave the store with merchandise that hadn’t been paid for, and that Willis struck the associate with a shopping cart when confronted.
The investigating officer reported in the probable cause statement that Willis was arrested and his vehicle was towed. During an inventory of the vehicle’s contents, the officer stated that he found a large set of bolt cutters in the rear floorboard area of the truck, and a catalytic converter in the bed of the truck that had “been cut from a vehicle with little regard to damage to the converter or the vehicle, indicating it was likely stolen.” The investigator reported that he questioned Willis about the catalytic converter post- Miranda, and that Willis claimed the converter had been placed in his truck by a “friend,” but he refused to give the friend’s name.
According to the probable cause statement, the converter was stolen from a truck at DeVille Steel, in Brookline; its value was placed at $3,473.00.
Second alleged theft occurred two weeks later
Willis is accused to stealing four more catalytic converters between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Thursday, July 15. According to the probable cause statement in that case, the same officer who investigated Willis in the July 1 incident was dispatched to Farr Better Plumbing in Republic after the theft of catalytic converters from four of their trucks was reported; three with gasoline motors and one with diesel. The cost to replace the converters on the gas-powered vehicles was $5,500, and the repair to the diesel truck was estimated to be in excess of $3,000.
The officer viewed security footage of a vehicle entering and exiting the property and reported recognizing it as the same vehicle driven by Willis in the July 1 incident. He then reported speaking to Willis over the phone about the thefts. In the probable cause statement, the officer reported that Willis acknowledged he was in Greene County at the time of the theft, which, according to the probable cause statement, was against a written directive from Willis’s parole officer. Willis also said he had possession of the truck at the time of the theft, and didn’t deny that the police had video footage of the incident, but denied any knowledge of the theft. He also said there was no one who could vouch for his whereabouts at the time of the theft.
The next day, a detective interviewed Willis about the thefts at his residence. According to the probable cause statement, Willis did not object to the detective stating the police had video of the vehicle at the scene, and Willis also stated that “he would have to make some phone calls to find out where the converters were at, presently.”
Past convictions
Willis has a criminal record; he pleaded guilty to felony burglary and stealing in Lawrence County on Nov. 13, 2019; on the same day, he pleaded guilty to burglary in Barry County. In Lawrence County, he was sentenced to five years in prison for the burglary charge and four years for the stealing charge, while he was sentenced to four years in prison in Barry County on the burglary charge there. The sentences all ran concurrently with each other.
The charges Willis is currently facing were filed on Wednesday, Oct. 27. He is scheduled to make an initial appearance in court on Wednesday, Dec. 1.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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