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Chance traffic encounter cracks Somerset theft case

William E. Miller

A vehicle sought in a St. Croix County boat theft had a distinctive appearance, making it hard to miss when a police chief spotted it in Sunday traffic last summer.

Somerset Police Chief Tom Sirovatka was at a Forest Lake, Minn., intersection in July when he spotted the very vehicle he'd been seeking for days — a Ford F-150 with custom fender flare caps, black wheels with off-colored hubcaps and a high-def light bar above the windshield. The truck was suspected in a July 8 theft at St. Croix Marine in Somerset, where surveillance video showed the driver hauling away a trailered 2007 Triton anniversary-edition bass fishing boat valued at $33,000.

A criminal complaint states Sirovatka developed information based off the truck's license plate that led to a warrant being issued for the arrest of 40-year-old William Edward Miller of Pine City, Minn.

According to St. Croix County court records, Miller was taken into custody Sept. 7. He posted $250 cash bond the same day after his initial court appearance, where he was charged with felony theft.

According to a criminal complaint:

Somerset police learned from the St. Croix Marine owner that a padlock had been cut off the boat's trailer before it was stolen just after 4 a.m.

Sirovatka took a look at video surveillance from the previous day and learned the same truck had visited the business at 3:38 a.m., when the driver tried stealing an enclosed trailer there. In both videos, the suspect — displaying distinctive tattoos, including some on his head — was identified.

Sirovatka was stopped in traffic in his personal vehicle July 16 when he spotted the truck on Highway 61 in Forest Lake. The chief followed the vehicle for 15 miles until he was able to pull up alongside it and get a look at the license plate and the driver "who matched my observations from surveillance as the suspect in the boat theft," he wrote in a police report attached to the complaint.

Sirovatka learned the truck's plates were registered to a West Concord, Minn., man. He spoke with a Dodge (Minn.) County deputy, who connected with the West Concord man.

The deputy learned that man had sold the truck two months earlier to William Miller, whom he described as a heavily tattooed man.

An arrest warrant was issued later in July after efforts to find Miller were unsuccessful.

Sirovatka said this week that he wasn't yet aware of the circumstances surrounding Miller's arrest.

Miller has a preliminary hearing set for Oct. 13 in St. Croix County Circuit Court.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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