Valdosta Daily Times

July 13, 2013

Thieves steal tractor from church

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Thieves stole a John Deere tractor from a Lowndes County church Thursday. They also took the church’s Vacation Bible School sign, according to church officials Friday.

The church’s pastor is offering a $500 reward for the tractor’s return.

Pastor Mike Bland said the “tractor was stolen in broad daylight” at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday from the Gloryhill Cowboy Church. There was no key in the tractor, he said. “The tractor was within 75 feet of Highway 84 three miles west of Valdosta ... parked directly in front of our church with a Vacation Bible School sign hanging from it,” Bland told The Times. “The thieves cut the ties to the VBS sign, but took the sign, drove the tractor down Highway 84 about one mile to a nearby waiting trailer just off the highway ... and made their getaway.”

Bland had parked the tractor on the spot only an hour earlier to promote the church’s Vacation Bible School. After securing the VBS sign to the raised front-end loader and a fence, he left the site at 1:50 p.m. He had the key with him.

Returning at 3 p.m., Bland

immediately noticed the tractor missing.

A witness was mowing grass in a nearby lot. The witness saw a truck drop off a person who started the tractor and left the church property. The witness thought the person was someone associated with the church family.

Another witness saw the tractor heading west on U.S. 84, Bland said. This witness mistakenly thought the pastor was driving the tractor.

With Lowndes County sheriff’s deputies, Bland found where the tractor was loaded onto a trailer off U.S. 84 near the Kinderlou Forest water tank. The trailer left on Spain Ferry Road.

There was no trace of the VBS sign.

Bland has owned the tractor for about 11 years. He uses the tractor on personal property and church property.

With the reward and publicity, Bland hopes to “bring some justice for folks — I know we are not the only ones in Valdosta who have lost a tractor to thieves — and therefore put a stop to tractor thefts.”

Lowndes County Sheriff’s Lt. Stryde Jones recommends owners of large equipment be aware that such thefts can occur anywhere and any time.

“People should remain aware and alert for unusual or suspicious activity,” Jones said. “If they suspect that something improper is afoot certainly call 911 and allow a deputy to check out the situation.”

If anyone has information about this case, or other crimes, contact the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, (229) 671-2950; or anonymous tips can be provided, (229) 671-2985; or on line at www.lowndessheriff.com.