Joel Brian Morelock, 26, of 414 Grassy Creek Road, was arrested Saturday at his place of employment. Church Hill Police Department Chief Mark Johnson says Morelock had eluded officers the previous day by running into a wooded area near his home, but left behind the stolen grates in his pickup truck.
The thefts were originally reported Friday afternoon at the Quick Car Wash on West Main Street in Church Hill. A check of another nearby car wash, Rub A Dub, found more metal grates missing, brining the total amount stolen to 11.
A witness at one location provided the description of a Chevrolet truck alleged to have been seen "messing around" the business, with a BOLO issued for the vehicle. Hawkins County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Nate Simpson reportedly recognized the description as a truck currently being operated by Morelock.
At approximately 6:30 p.m. HCSO Deputy Mark Harrel observed the vehicle turn into the driveway of Morelock's neighboring residence. Upon spotting police Morelock is alleged to have hurriedly placed his 5-year-old son on the neighbor's porch, then ran into nearby woods. All of the grates were found in the back of the vehicle.
The next day Morelock was located and arrested at his place of employment. He is charged with two counts of theft over $500, evading arrest and driving on a suspended license.
CHPD Chief Johnson said a dangerous situation was created for anyone using the car washes while the grates were missing. The drain openings at Quick Car Wash measure 4 feet by 2 feet, while Rub A Dub’s measured more than 6 feet by 3 feet. All the drain openings are at least two feet deep.