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Ice cream truck theft leads thieves down rocky road

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
It had all the markings of a crime of passion ó a blistering hot day and a stolen ice cream truck.
Turns out, there was a bit more to it.
When Matt Banish showed up Thursday morning at his business, Village Grocery on U.S. 601 north of Salisbury, he noticed a Hershey’s Ice Cream truck parked in the Franklin Fire Department lot next door.
“I just figured it’d broken down,” Banish said of the truck. “Otherwise, I’d have been all over the vendor. They know they’re not supposed to park in the fire department’s lot.”
The truck sat for a bit before officials determined the truck had served as a getaway ride from Hershey Ice Cream Corp. on Corporation Circle in Salisbury.
From there, the story grows progressively more sticky.
According to Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm, officers were patrolling the lot of Ben Mynatt Pontiac-GMC-Nissan on Jake Alexander Boulevard about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday when they saw a car with an open door.
The car was a 1992 Buick Century stolen Tuesday from Bob Ware Radiator Shop on South Main Street.
Wilhelm said someone had broken into a 2005 Nissan on the Ben Mynatt lot and was in the process of removing its stereo when the officers happened by.
The thieves apparently saw the approaching police car and skedaddled on foot. Wilhelm said investigators believe they are looking for more than one thief.
“It’s not a lot of fun to steal a bunch of cars by yourself,” he said. “If it was just one person, he’d keep the one car he’d stolen.”
Officers believe the thieves ran through the woods to the nearby Hershey Ice Cream Corp.
There, they apparently stole the truck ó lickety-split. Hershey officials told the officers the truck’s driver had almost emptied it of ice cream while working his route Wednesday. It hadn’t been restocked before disappearing.
“I’ll bet there’s not $50 worth of ice cream in that truck,” said Salisbury Master Police Officer Kenny Lane, who was fingerprinting the vehicle about noon Thursday.
He said he wasn’t sure how the thieves got access to the truck. A woman who answered the phone Thursday at Hershey Ice Cream Corp. said no one at the business could discuss the incident.
After melting away with the truck, the thieves apparently drove north on U.S. 601 to Franklin Service, a garage at the intersection of 601 and East Ridge Road.
Garage owner Robbie Gaskey said the truck barreled under an overhang outside his shop and struck a black Honda CRV parked there. The driver of the truck then apparently pulled back onto U.S. 601 and headed south for a short distance before pulling into the Franklin Fire Department lot.
At some point, the thieves broke the lock on Franklin Service’s front door and and stole a Chevrolet Tahoe parked inside.
They added tires and car stereo equipment to their stolen treat. “They got enough,” Gaskey said. “It could have been worse, I guess.”
The Tahoe was still missing Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Officer Lane was dripping wet with sweat as he worked Thursday afternoon.
Lane said he rather fingerprint the inside of the truck’s freezer rather than its cab, steering wheel and doors.
Asked if he found anything amusing about the fact that he was having to check an ice cream truck for fingerprints on a day when the thermometer was supposed to climb to almost 100 degrees, Lane pointed to the vehicle’s freezer.
“Not when it’s cold inside and hot out here,” he said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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