Suspected car thieves nabbed Lot owner sets trap day after six vehicles taken

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Salisbury Post
Peter DeCoster would describe himself as a lucky man.
On Friday morning, the Salisbury car dealer foiled thieves attempting to load one of his cars onto a wrecker.
DeCoster, owner of Diamond Auto Sales, noticed Thursday that about six cars were stolen, along with tires, transmissions and other car parts.
He called authorities Thursday, but still felt uneasy about the situation.
“I just didn’t feel well. It was bothering me the whole night,” he said.
DeCoster said he knew the thieves would return, quite possibly during daylight hours.
He planned to go back to his property at 1916 Mooresville Road the following day.
DeCoster had about 25 cars at this location, all secured, most in a building, and others outside at the site of his former dealership.
He laid a trap for whoever was stealing from him by pouring a bucket of nails at the entrance, hoping at the least they’d “blow a few tires,” DeCoster said.
“I figured the average crook wouldn’t come back again,” he said.
On Friday, DeCoster, who usually doesn’t carry a cell phone with him, brought one just in case. When he saw men using a wrecker to haul away one of his cars, he used the cell phone to call police.
He didn’t expect anyone to be there, and said the suspects probably felt the same. “I was as surprised as they were,” DeCoster said.
Within minutes, police were at the property, DeCoster said.
In the meantime, DeCoster used his own car to try to block the suspects. They didn’t stop, but went around him and crashed through a 5-foot fence, some brush and the Landmark Church parking lot, which is beside the property.
According to Salisbury Police shift supervisor Sgt. Paul Johnston, the suspects were caught by a Rowan County Sheriff’s deputy a short time later. Police charged Elbert Leon Chambers, 44, of 1031 Old Plank Road, Salisbury, with attempted larceny, attempted felonious larceny and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Johnston said Chambers owned the wrecker and was the driver.
A passenger, Rufus Birst, 55, 740 Harris Road, Salisbury, is charged with larceny of a motor vehicle.
Chambers is being held at the Rowan County Detention Center under a $15,000 bond.
Birst is being held at the detention center under $7,000 bond.
Officers found a Ford Crown Victoria, belonging to DeCoster, parked at Chambers’ Plank Road home. Authorities returned that car to DeCoster.
As of Friday night none of DeCoster’s other vehicles have been recovered.
“I’m lucky no one got hurt,” he said.
Johnston said it wasn’t uncommon for someone to take a car using a wrecker.
“It has been done in the past,” he said.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or