Christmas truck thief caught in Arizona

Staff writer

A man who allegedly amassed a $94,000 tab in stolen and damaged property on Christmas Day at the home of county residents, Merle and Michelle Flaming, is in custody after a two-month multi-state crime spree that began in Missouri, screamed through Kansas, and climaxed in Arizona with a five-hour standoff.

Merle Flaming was somewhat relieved to hear the news; nevertheless, the ordeal left him questioning societies’ moral fiber.

“The whole thing is just a total lack of respect,” Flaming said. “That’s how things are in this world. It’s just a mess.”

On Dec. 27, 2016, the Flamings returned to their home near Lehigh to find their motorcycle and house damaged from the break-in and a $65,000 Ford pickup and 2007 trailer stolen along with a computer and smorgasbord of smaller items.

Officials believe Allen Dean Washburn, 35, of Kingman, Arizona, abandoned a vehicle on the Flamings’ property last December after he allegedly stole it in Barton County, Missouri, while on furlough from Bates County Jail in Missouri.

Flaming learned that Washburn had been in jail before.

“Last time he was in jail he got out and then he did all this,” Flaming said. “His friends said he’s a great guy when he’s not on drugs. ‘It’s the drugs’ they said, but I question that. He was sober when he did these things. It’s a problem with the heart, and just a lack of respect. If he’d had respect for other people all this never would have happened.”

Flaming said insurance covered a lot of what was taken. However, when police found his trailer abandoned at a McDonalds in Kansas City, he was puzzled to the point of disgust.

“He took it and then he just left it there,” Flaming said. “For what purpose? To take something and use it I can understand, but to take it and then do nothing with it, it doesn’t make any sense. I can’t understand that.”

Even if there wasn’t discernible reason for Washburn’s alleged behavior, authorities were able to track him, as he was known to having posted updates on social media during his crime spree.

“Detective Wilma Mueller did a ton of legwork on this case,” Sheriff Rob Craft said. “She kept track of him through acquaintances and other methods.”

Mueller was in contact with many police departments as she tracked him, Craft said. Flaming’s truck turned up Feb. 8 abandoned near Chloride, Arizona.

“I don’t have an inventory list,” Craft said. “But I know a couple things important to us were there, a laptop and building plans.”

Mohave County sheriff’s deputies picked up the case and pursued Washburn to a residence in Kingman, Arizona, on Friday, according to a press release.

Allegedly observed in possession of a handgun, Washburn was considered armed and dangerous.

At 8:40 p.m. Friday, deputies surrounded the house and used a public announcement system to speak to its occupants. Eventually, the homeowner exited and confirmed Washburn was inside, after which deputies continued use the PA to communicate with Washburn without response, according to the release.

“He refused to surrender,” Craft said. “A standoff ensued.”

At 3 a.m. Saturday, he said distraction devices and other methods were used.

“They had to use their SWAT team,” Craft said.

Washburn was arrested and booked into Mohave County Jail on three Kansas fugitive from justice felony warrants. Craft said Washburn also faces charges in two Missouri counties and charges in Arizona because of the standoff.

Last modified Feb. 16, 2017

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