A vehicle reported stolen in Chetek last month was found near the CTH D bridge over the Red Cedar River, west of Chetek on Friday, Oct. 25, about two miles away from where the owner had discovered it missing.
Barron County sheriff’s deputies and Chetek police were at the scene on Friday, about 150 feet off of the road, northwest of the intersection of CTH D and 22-3/4 Street. The vehicle was a black Honda Civic.
Owner Kory Mickelson, from Chetek, said he had left it parked behind Rod & Gun Sport Shop on Sept. 15. After watching the Packers and Vikings game and having a few drinks at Phill’s Bar & Grill, he elected to get a ride home. He’s parked his vehicle in that parking lot hundreds of times in the last three years, and he never had any issues, he said. He admitted he got too comfortable and left it unlocked.
He went back the next day and found it missing. Mickelson thought it might have been towed, “But after checking with local business owners and BlackJack Towing, I realized that was not the case and it hadn’t been towed.”
Mickelson reported it to police and it was listed as stolen on Sept. 17.
The car was found by a passerby on Oct. 25, said Chetek Police Chief Ron Ambrozaitis. Barron County sheriff’s deputies were the first on scene and the CPD was notified as the case is being handled by Chetek.
Some of Mickelson’s personal property was still inside the vehicle; however, the windows were left down and the interior had been soaked by rain, Ambrozaitis said. He was not sure if any damage was caused when it was taken or if it was prior damage. It was pulled out of the wooded area and towed to the police garage by Blackjack Towing.
“Whoever drove it down in there, they took measures to camouflage it,” Ambrozaitis said. It was driven off the road as far as it could go and leaves and branches had been piled on top to conceal it. He wasn’t sure how long it had been parked there. “When the leaves were up, you weren’t going to see it.”
Mickelson said there was a bunch of garbage strewn throughout the vehicle, but personal belongings, like a laptop and his passport, were still inside. “So the perpetrator definitely had some idea of whose car they were taking,” he said. He added that the police were processing the vehicle for evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA.
Mickelson had his suspicions of who might have taken the vehicle, but as of Monday, Oct. 28, there were no official suspects, Ambrozaitis said. However, Ambrozaitis had theories of why it was taken.
“They wanted to go some place and then when they wanted to come back, they ditched it,” Ambrozaitis speculated. “It was easy pickings.”
Mickelson said it was a hard lesson learned and he wouldn’t be leaving his car unlocked again.
The car’s battery was dead and there was some minor damage—dents—but it still ran. Mickelson said he would be getting it back later this week.