The charred remains of a car apparently used in an armed robbery at the Mt. Pleasant Maverik sits on a residential street a few blocks from the robbery. The robbers apparently set the car on fire to divert attention from their actual getaway car.

Robbers hit Mt. Pleasant Maverik, burn car before leaving town

 

By John Hales

Staff writer

Oct. 12, 2017

 

MT. PLEASANT—Two men armed with a handgun and a knife held up a clerk at the Mt. Pleasant Maverik store Monday morning and got away with what a source said was about $300.

But it wasn’t your garden-variety armed robbery. The robbers drove up and left in two stolen vehicles. Then, apparently to divert attention from their get-away, they set one of the cars on fire a few blocks from the store.

Two suspects were apprehended Monday afternoon outside Springville.  The car that was apparently used in the getaway (not the one that was burned) was also recovered in Springville.

The string of criminal incidents connected with the robbery apparently began Sunday night or before dawn Monday morning when a car belonging to Derek Wright, a Snow College student and football player originally from Sterling, was stolen from where it was parked at Wright’s apartment in Ephraim.

During the same timeframe, another vehicle belonging to Wright’s friend, Nate Keisel of Spanish Fork, also a Snow student, was broken into and several .22-caliber rifles were stolen, according to Wright’s mother, Emily Palmer.

Sgt. Len Gasser, Ephraim interim police chief, confirmed the car and arms thefts. “It’s an active investigation; things are still unraveling,” Gasser said.

According to a statement released by Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Jim Wilberg, three suspects pulled up in front of the Maverik store at about 6 a.m. Monday. Two of them went inside the story while a third waited in a vehicle.

Police said witnesses described the suspects in the store as males, about 5’8” and 5’6” tall, armed with a handgun and a knife.

A relative of one of the clerks who was on duty said one suspect held a gun to the clerk’s chest before making off with cash.

Officers said the suspects left in a black Honda Civic and another vehicle. Palmer said she was sure the second car was the one taken from Wright’s apartment.

She said her son’s car, which had markings that made it quite distinctive, appeared on Maverik surveillance tape.

“That car’s so unique that it will stand out. They’re going to see it, they’re going to find it,” she said Monday a few hours before the car actually was found.

The Honda Civic came to the end of its road right in Mt. Pleasant. The perpetrators drove a few blocks from the store, to about 350 S. 100 West, and set the Honda on fire.

“It’s not every morning you wake up to a car being set on fire in front your house,” wrote Mt. Pleasant resident Rachelle Outzen on Facebook. “I just hope they find whoever did this before they set another car on fire or rob somewhere else! What is this world coming to? It’s becoming so scary even in our little community.”

Speaking to the Messenger, Outzen said her husband discovered the fire as he was waiting for a ride to work with a coworker. He heard something, thought it was his ride and opened the door. He saw the car already aflame, and saw someone dumping a can of gasoline over it.

“He hollered, ‘Call 911!’” Outzen said.

By the time Outzen herself got outside, the car was fully engulfed, and even the road was on fire. “I was kinda freaking out. I was thinking it was going to blow into a million pieces,” Outzen said.

A couple of men driving home from working at the coal mines saw the fire and stopped. One of them was Derek Denton, originally from Sterling.

“We looked up and saw a big old fire in the middle of the road,” Denton said. “Rachelle [Outzen] was outside. We just grabbed a garden hose and started spraying the fire out. We just sprayed it until the fire department got there.”

Meanwhile, after a picture of Wright’s vehicle spread across social media, a car matching its description was seen getting off the freeway in Orem, according to a post on Palmer’s Facebook page.

Late Monday, Lt. Warren Foster from the Springville Police Department confirmed that Wright’s vehicle had recovered in Springville after an attempted traffic stop in Orem led to a pursuit down I-15.

“They made their way into the west fields, and left the vehicle in a church parking lot,” Foster said. “With witnessess’ help and a high volume of law enforcement, we were able to, we believe, take two of the three individuals who were in that vehicle.”

Foster was careful to say that he could not confirm those same individuals were involved in the Sanpete County events, leaving that determination to authorities in Ephraim and Mt. Pleasant.

Aaron Simpson, chief marketing officer for Maverik, said store officials typically don’t talk about the details of robberies.

“We help the employees, because obviously it’s fairly traumatic for them, and then we turn everything over to law enforcement,” he said.

Simpson did not confirm the amount of money stolen, but did say that all that would have been available to the thieves was what would have been in the till. He confirmed that two employees were in the store at the time of the robbery and that they were physically uninjured.

“We have an employee-assistance program,” he said, to help with the nonphysical injuries. “We make sure employees get counseling they need. We’ll basically get them whatever help they need.”