Leaking oil from a tractor stolen Wednesday in rural western York County - coupled with the alleged thief and an accomplice arguing over how to brake the stolen tractor as it was hauled away down country roads behind a 20-year-old pickup truck - led to an arrest the next town over, according to law enforcement reports.
On Wednesday morning Renee Hampton of Smyrna called the York County Sheriff's Office to report she heard a noise at her father's property nearby, then saw a young man hooking a chain to her father's tractor. The man then pulled the tractor, a 31-horsepower Deutz Allis, away toward the tiny town of Sharon a few miles away, Hampton told deputies.
"Right in broad daylight," Hampton said Saturday of the theft. "I couldn't believe it - somebody stealing my daddy's tractor."
Police responded and found oil on the road leading toward Sharon, according to a York County Sheriff Office's report. Deputies followed the oil drips and puddles through Sharon toward the even tinier town of Hickory Grove.
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A "gentleman working in his yard" told deputies he had seen two boys pulling a tractor behind a red Chevy S-10 pickup.
"The boys were arguing because the one steering the tractor did not know how to brake when the one driving the truck would stop," the man told deputies.
Deputies tracked the oil drippings and talked to people in Hickory Grove, asking about a tractor, until a deputy "saw a tractor fitting the description I was given" in front of a house, along with fresh tire prints. The resident, who repairs tractors, told police he had just paid someone $250 for the tractor, yet still owed the man $50 of the money.
The man, told the tractor was stolen, then offered to call the person who sold him the tractor "under the guise of picking up the other $50," the report states.
Deputies waited nearby until David Anthony Brown, 19, of Hickory Grove, showed up. Deputies advised Brown of his rights, then Brown admitted to stealing the tractor, according to the report.
Brown was charged with burglary and grand larceny, then released Friday from the York County Detention center after posting $10,000 bond, jail officials said Saturday. Efforts to reach Brown Saturday were unsuccessful.
Hollie Setzer, granddaughter of the tractor owner, 88-year-old Halbrook McCaw, said the family appreciates that some people helped deputies catch the alleged thief.
"My grandfather was happiest when they brought the tractor back later," Setzer said. "He loves that tractor."