CADILLAC — The Cadillac Michigan State Police Post is hoping the recovery of a brooch and blanket will lead to arrests in the case of a stolen Jeep Wrangler.
The Wexford County Dive Team recovered the stolen vehicle Monday after it was dumped in the Manistee River. The vehicle was stolen last month from a barn in Hanover Township and belongs to Ron and Colleen Rohloff.
The couple moved to the area roughly four years ago from the Saginaw area, but the Jeep was purchased new in 1997 from a Frankenmuth dealership. For 22 years and roughly 84,000 miles, the red Jeep Wrangler was part of the family’s adventures. In recent, years it was only driven during the warmer months.
During the winter, it was stored in one of the Rohloff’s pole barns. So there the Jeep sat when the person or persons responsible for stealing it took it and eventually dumped it in the Manistee River.
On the morning of Oct. 30, Ron said he and Colleen decided to go to Traverse City. They left at 9:30 a.m. They came home around 3 p.m. Once home, Ron said their neighbor stopped by and said he saw the door of the pole barn open around 2 p.m.
At the time, Ron said his neighbor didn’t think anything of it. He also noticed his tractor between the Rohloff’s two barns. What the neighbor didn’t realize was the tractor was used to move the Jeep out of the pole barn.
Police issued a “Be On the Lookout‘ for the Jeep, troopers canvassed the neighborhood and interviewed neighbors and persons of interest. That, however, didn’t lead to the Jeep’s recovery or insight into who might have taken it.
“I’m not happy at all,‘ Ron said of the intrusion. “ It’s very upsetting. It is 22 years old and we enjoyed the heck out of it.‘
For nearly two weeks the Jeeps whereabouts remained unknown. That changed on Sunday.
At roughly 3:30 p.m. Nov. 10 the Wexford County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to a report of a vehicle submerged in the Manistee River between Buckley and Manton, according to a release by the sheriff’s office Tuesday. When deputies arrived they located what appeared to be a red Jeep Wrangler with a black vinyl top underwater in the river, police said.
The vehicle appeared to have been pushed off the ledge of a high blank and sent into the river off a two-track in Greenwood Township, according to police. It was determined on Nov. 10 no attempt to recover the vehicle would be made based on the investigation, evidence found on the scene and safety concerns, police said.
On Nov. 11, police said the Wexford County Dive Team responded to the area of the vehicle and completed the recovery. Once recovered, deputies were able to confirm the Jeep was the same vehicle reported stolen to the Michigan State Police on Oct. 30. Once the vehicle was removed from the water, it was turned over to the MSP.
With the Jeep recovered, troopers searched the interior of the vehicle on Tuesday. They found two items that didn’t belong to the Rohloffs. A brooch was found frozen in ice on the passenger side of the Jeep while a baby blanket was found on the driver’s side.
Police also said it appears the suspect or suspects attempted to burn the inside of the Jeep as part of the interior is burned. They are not certain if the Jeep was on fire when it was pushed in the river or if the suspect or suspects opted to sink it in the river after it wouldn’t catch fire.
Because the brooch and the blanket don’t belong to the Rohloffs, police are hopeful someone will recognize them or potentially know who they might have belonged to. It also is possible the suspect or suspects could have been using the vehicle while committing breaking and enterings throughout the region and the items were stolen, according to police.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Cadillac Michigan State Police Post at (231) 779-6040 or Silent Observer at (231) 779-9215 or 800-528-8234. Tips also may be given to the Silent Observer online at www.casotips.com. A reward is available through Silent Observer for any information that leads to an arrest and conviction.