Latest trick by car thieves led police right to them

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - GPS tracking was a key to police cracking what could be a big stolen vehicle ring. The investigation led to a fatal shooting in Franklin County when one of the suspects reportedly drove at police.

It`s all connected to a series of vehicle thefts on Christmas morning. Surveillance video from Dave Sinclair Ford showed a wanted felon crashing a pick-up through a garage door and out of the dealership. Then police narrowed in on Michael T Goebel Wednesday night. Goebel`s been in and out of prison since he was 20 and was wanted in at least three places.

The St. Louis County auto crime unit tracked him to rural Spring Drive in Franklin County.

“He drove through a partially closed garage door to break through the garage door, similar to the incident caught on surveillance Christmas morning,” St. Louis County Police Officer Shawn McGuire said.

Goebel reportedly drove right at officers, who shot and killed him.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is investigating the shooting. Goebel also had passengers when he tried to escape, including felon Conrad Markmueller VI, whom police also shot. He survived. A woman in the car was not hurt.

A key to the case may have been Steve Simon, owner of A-Always towing. Police believe the car thieves started by stealing one of his flat beds.

“(The thieves) were busy that evening... multiple locations,” Simon said.

He could track their every move with GPS monitoring. Dozens of green dots on his computer screen showed movement and four yellow dots showed when they operated the flat bed.

“It was pretty big. It was sprawled out between city and county with this tow truck picking up vehicles,” Simon said.

Then he caught up with his tow truck, with another surprise.

“I found a stolen truck on top of my stolen tow truck,” he said.

It was a car from another dealership, left at an abandoned home in House Springs, Missouri.

Franklin County and Jefferson County authorities also assisted in Wednesday night’s operation. This case involves at least four car dealerships in at least three jurisdictions and Simon believes the use of his tow truck was a strategy. He thinks they thought it would give them cover, yet it ended up leading police right to them.

Follow Chris Hayes @ChrisHayesTV