SAFFORD — An alleged burglary team was apprehended attempting to spend some of its ill-gotten goods Tuesday, after an employee of one of the businesses they hit recognized a suspect walking down the highway.
Frankie Autrey III, 27, of Tombstone, and Donald Baumgardt, 43, of Sierra Vista, were arrested and booked into the Graham County Jail on charges of burglary, theft, criminal damage and possession of burglary tools. The pair is alleged to have burglarized the Swire Coca Cola distributor at 202 W. 8th St. and the Oasis hot dog, ice and snack shop at 1825 W. Thatcher Blvd. on Sunday and Monday.
Officers were initially dispatched to the Swire Coca Cola building after an employee noticed the break-in around 4 a.m. on Monday. Safford investigators believe the burglars entered the building early Sunday morning, left, and then returned late Sunday night before leaving early Monday morning, about 15 minutes before the employee arrived.
The burglars reportedly broke open one safe at Swire and stole a second. They took an undisclosed amount of cash and also stole a computer and a camera, according to Safford Sgt. Jason Knight. The burglars also made off with a number of vending machine keys that were in the stolen safe.
After leaving Swire, the burglars broke into the Oasis building, as well as a coin-operated machine located in the front of the business.
While at Oasis, Autrey reportedly sent Baumgardt to Walmart to purchase additional hack saw blades. Knight said Baumgardt was serving as Autrey's lookout as he broke into the safe. The burglars exited Oasis with a large amount of cash stolen from its safe and were in the wind.
Shortly after 10 a.m., an employee from Oasis recognized Autrey as he walked along the 200 block of E. U.S. Highway 70 from a Super Man hat he was wearing. Autrey was shown in surveillance footage wearing the same hat as he broke into the safe at Oasis.
Officers initially could not locate Autrey along the highway, but soon discovered him inside of Maverick Motorsports at 214 E. U.S. Highway 70 as he was about to purchase a Yamaha Banshee all-terrain vehicle with nearly $4,000 in cash believed to be taken in the burglaries. Officers also confiscated more cash found on Autrey and a room key for the Budget Inn at 1215 W. Thatcher Blvd. Autrey later stated his plan was to ride to St. David on the ATV he intended to buy.
After receiving a search warrant for the motel room, officers entered and discovered Baumgardt asleep along with more cash, nearly $700 in coins, other items from the burglaries and burglary tools.
The suspects were questioned and booked into the jail. Safford Police Chief John Griffin said it appeared that the suspects were professional burglars and could possibly be linked to other recent burglaries in the area.