West Plains man charged in theft of truck in Gainesville

Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott, 45, of West Plains, is charged in connection with a truck stolen June 30 from outside a Gainesville restaurant.

The truck’s owner, Manuel Hambelton, told Ozark County Sheriff’s Department officers he had driven his silver 2016 Dodge 3500 to a restaurant on Third Street in Gainesville on that Tuesday. He called OCSD about 2:44 p.m. to report the truck missing, according to the  probable cause statement filed in the case by Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Curt Dobbs. 

Hambelton said the truck had been connected to a trailer loaded with excavating equipment. When he finished eating, he noticed the trailer was still where he had parked it, but the Dodge and its contents, including a 9mm handgun, were missing.

This week’s sheriff’s report (see page 7) shows a 6:12 p.m. call that Tuesday evening from a property owner on County Road 530 who discovered the truck behind a residence there and called the sheriff’s office after seeing  a Facebook post about the theft. The truck keys and handgun were missing.

According to the statement, the investigation into the theft soon identified Abbott as a suspect.

About 8:53 a.m. Thursday, July 2, Dobbs learned that Abbot had been taken into custody by the West Plains Police Department. According to a WPPD press release, an officer had found Abbott in the driveway of a residence on Arkansas Street in West Plains. He was in a vehicle that had been reported as stolen from Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative. Abbott was allegedly found with several stolen firearms.

In the statement, Dobbs said he interviewed Abbott about 11:30 a.m. at the Howell County Sheriff’s Office. During the interview, Abbott allegedly admitted taking the Dodge from outside the Gainesville restaurant after he noticed the keys were in the ignition. He said he unhooked the trailer and drove the truck to County Road 530 and parked it behind what he believed was an abandoned house.

Abbott told Dobbs he then walked to Highway 160 and headed east toward West Plains, but he went back to the truck to get his cigarettes and then returned to the highway and walked to West Plains.

Abbott is charged with the class D felonies of tampering in the first degree, stealing and unlawful possession of a firearm. He is being charged as a persistent offender. 

According to court records, Abbott has been convicted of several felonies. In November 2013, he was convicted in Oregon County of felony tampering with a motor vehicle in the first degree. In December 2014, he was convicted in Stone County of felony possession of a controlled substance. In May 2020, he was convicted in Howell County of felony stealing.

Court records indicate Abbott is currently on probation from the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Abbott is expected to be arraigned here after he is released from the Howell County Jail, where he was being held at press time Tuesday.

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423