Suspect charged with stealing merchandise taken from vehicle stranded in winter storm

FRANKLIN COUNTY, MO – A Franklin County woman is accused of stealing merchandise from a vehicle that slid into a ditch and was abandoned in Friday’s snowstorm.  33-year-old Tonya Gerlt is charged with felony stealing and misdemeanor property damage.  Franklin County Sheriff Steve Pelton said a witness helped lead investigators to the suspect.  Pelton says Gerlt was in possession of about half of the stolen merchandise.

The owner of the car returned to her vehicle after the rough weather had passed.  The vehicle slid off Highway 100 and into a ditch near Berger.  The owner found the rear window was broken and items inside the vehicle stolen.  Pelton is not sure what the motive was but believes this was a crime of opportunity for Gerlt.

“I think she just saw an easy opportunity to bust the window out and stole the merchandise that was in the car,” he said.

Sheriff Pelton said the owner of the car operated her own business and told investigators merchandise worth thousands of dollars was taken.  The sheriff encourages anyone who sees anything suspicious to call 911.  He said, “We don’t mind checking it out.”

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