Officers believe Mark Twain school burglar responsible for other area break-ins
Sheriff’s deputies from Ozark and Taney Counties are currently investigating a string of burglaries over the past month across the two-county area that are thought to be related. Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed told the Times Tuesday morning that officers are almost certain a burglar who broke into Mark Twain School in Taney County Monday morning is the same person who is responsible for a swath of break-ins around Ozark County including Dec. 5 burglaries at Gainesville Ag Supply and West Plains Propane, and a Dec. 10 burglary at Lutie School. Reed said he thinks the same burglar had also hit a few businesses in Taney County, including a Forsyth-area propane business.
“He was wearing the same outfit, had the same build and everything,” Reed said. “We’re pretty sure it’s the same man.”
Reed said his officers are looking at a few individuals in connection with the burglaries, but no official suspect has been identified yet.
When contacted by the Times, Taney County Sheriff Jimmie Russell declined to comment, saying the case is currently being investigated.
The most recent break-in was at Mark Twain school, just over the Ozark/Taney County line on Highway 160. As Mark Twain School superintendent Joe Donley arrived at work Monday morning, he noticed the blinds on his office window were askew and his office door was open.
“I always lock my office,” Donley said. “When I opened the door, there was mud on the floor and I could see my keys had been messed with.”
Donley said the burglar demolished a safe and got less than $500 in petty cash. “There was a little concession stand money and some lunch money, along with funds we were going to use to pay the referees for Thursday’s ball game – not much. Schools rarely have much cash on hand. We’re not the best choice for breaking in.”
The burglar wandered around the school for about an hour, according to security footage. “It was kind of eerie, watching the security footage of him going through the school,” Donley said.
Similar incident at Lutie School
Lutie School superintendent Scot Young told the Times Monday that after viewing the photos of the burglary taken from the Mark Twain School security cameras and posted on the Taney County Sheriff’s Department Facebook page Monday, he also believes the burglar is the same man who broke into Lutie School in early December.
Lutie had similar security camera footage as Mark Twain School, Young said. “It showed basically the same picture, same outfit, same mask as Taney County put up,” he said.
The burglar got away with at least $2,000 in cash from Lutie School, Young said. According to the footage, the burglar spent more than two hours inside Lutie School during the early morning hours of Dec. 10.
Young agreed with Donley that schools are generally not the most prolific businesses to break into.
“It was a unique situation with this break-in at Lutie, because we had just had our book fair and had concession stand cash on hand. Generally there is very little cash in the building,” Young said, adding that all money now is deposited daily, even after an evening event.
If you have information
Anyone with any information about these cases is asked to contact the Ozark County Sheriff’s Department at 417-679-4633 or the Taney County Sheriff’s Department at 417-546-7250.