Three people were arrested and a fourth eluded capture in Smith River Wednesday morning after a California Highway Patrol officer stopped a vehicle stolen from a home in Harbor.
Authorities were looking for driver and wanted felon David J. Rhodes Jr., 27, of Smith River, after he fled from the vehicle that was pulled over during a traffic stop at 555 Highland Drive, according to CHP Officer Ted Luna.
Luna said he was on patrol at 6:40 a.m. when he spotted a 1997 Jeep Cherokee with a defective rear light and pulled it over. Rhodes parked the Jeep in the driveway of a home and fled the car on foot. Luna stayed at the scene and quickly learned the Jeep had been stolen from Harbor, one of two vehicles reported stolen Sunday, along with several reported vehicle burglaries in the Harbor area.
Luna said the Jeep’s steering column had been tampered with, license plates replaced with stolen ones, and the car had been painted with black spray paint.
Three passengers in the Jeep with Rhodes – Timber Scott, 22, of Smith River; Layla Strand, 18, of Smith River, and Cynthia Hartley, 39, of Crescent City — were arrested at the scene and charged with vehicle theft and possession of stolen property.
While Luna was taking the three passengers into custody, he received a call of a Toyota Tacoma truck stolen from a nearby residence.
“Somebody had left their truck running in the driveway, to warm up, and Rhodes took it,” Luna said.
Later that day, one of the people arrested told authorities where the Toyota might be found — on a side road off Oceanview Drive south of the Oregon/California border. It’s where Rhodes often dumps stolen vehicles, Luna said.
The Toyota was located there Wednesday afternoon and returned to the owner, Luna said.
Rhodes has a long criminal history and has been convicted of auto thefts and residential burglaries in Curry and Del Norte counties, Luna said. He has numerous warrants for his arrest, including a $50,000 warrant for parole violation, according to the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office.
In April 2011, Rhodes was sentenced to two years in San Quentin State Prison after pleading guilty to a home burglary in Brookings.
Anyone with information about Rhodes’ whereabouts is encouraged to call the CHP at 707-464-3117, the Del Norte Sheriff’s Office at (707) 464-4192, or the Curry County Sheriff’s Department at 541-247-3242.