Stolen pickup truck pulled from pond at Bluffton golf course

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJune 5, 2012 

A pickup truck fished from a pond on a Bluffton golf course Tuesday might be linked to a recent rash of car thefts in area gated communities, authorities say.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office dive team pulled a gray GMC Z71 pickup truck from a water hazard on the fifth hole at Pinecrest Golf Club, where it was ditched after it was stolen from a home on Jarvis Creek Lane on Hilton Head Island, said Sgt. Robin McIntosh.

Before driving the pickup truck into the pond, the suspect drove around on the course Monday night or early Tuesday, causing about $15,000 in damage to the course, said Lt. Joe Babkiewicz, spokesman for the Bluffton Police Department, which is investigating the vandalism case because it is in town limits.

The Sheriff's Office is investigating the car theft because it occurred in its jurisdiction.

No suspects were identified.

McIntosh said the pickup truck was stolen sometime late Monday or early Tuesday and was one of three vehicles reported stolen Tuesday.

The other two vehicles, which had not been recovered as of Tuesday evening, were stolen during the night from Greens Road on Hilton Head Island and from Lancaster Boulevard in Berkeley Hall in Bluffton, McIntosh said.

Investigators are exploring possible links between the thefts Tuesday and about a dozen similar vehicle thefts in the past month from homes in local gated communities, including Rose Hill and The Crescent, authorities say.

McIntosh said all of the vehicles, including those stolen Tuesday, were left unlocked with the keys inside. Most have been recovered, she said.

"It appears that they're taking the cars, joy riding around for a while, then ditching the vehicles not far from where they were stolen," McIntosh said. "Obviously, it would be prudent for citizens not to leave their keys inside of unlocked vehicles."

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