A call about a stolen John Deere gator led to the arrest of a local man, Kevin Lee Ballard, who was already on probation for several thefts and burglaries he committed last year. The arrest solved several burglaries and thefts in the area and recovered tens of thousands of dollars in stolen property.
On Saturday, February 2nd, Runnels County Sheriff’s deputy Clemente “Tito” Mata was dispatched to a theft of a John Deere Gator off of county road 361. Mata arrived on the scene and spoke with the victim who informed him that the Gator had been stolen from his farm during the night. Mata, much like his predecessors in the 1800s, did some good old-fashioned sheriff’s work; he followed the tracks. “He did some great work,” Sheriff Carl Squyers said about Mata.
Mata followed the tracks from the farm to the middle of a pasture where Mata said that the path became erratic, “It looked like he drove out there, lost his sense of direction and got lost. But, we were eventually able to follow the tracks directly to the farm where the Gator was found.” Once they located where the Gator had been driven, the son of the victim said, “You know that Kevin Ballard lives there, he’s the one that stole all of that stuff from the airport last year.”
Mata called Steve Ballard, the owner of the farm where the Gator was located. When Ballard answered the phone, he said, “I guess you’re calling about that stuff on the trailers.” Mata went out to the road and drove up to the driveway of the farm where he made contact with the Steve Ballard. I explained to Mr. Ballard why were there and he invited us onto his farm and told us that we could search wherever we needed to. We found the Gator and then Mr. Ballard told us, “You might be interested in some other stuff he has on a trailer out here.’ There were several pieces of stolen equipment on the trailer. We also recovered a John Deere 4960 tractor that had been stolen on January 29th. I also located a stolen chainsaw and called the owner.”
Kevin Ballard was at home when Mata showed up so he questioned him about the items on the trailer, the gator and the tractor, “He told me that he bought the stuff off of Craigslist or traded other people for some of it. He couldn’t give me names or any information on the people he supposedly bought from and traded with.”
Steve Ballard took the deputies to another trailer full of items and equipment, most of which were stolen items. Mata says that some of the burglaries and thefts had not been reported yet because they hadn’t been discovered, “There was a deer lease on the neighboring farm. It has several RVs parked on it and also a house that the hunters use during the season. Kevin Ballard had stolen a bunch of items from those RVs and from around the deer camp.”
Mata talked to Steve Ballard who said that he was going to kick his son out of the house, “When he said that, I knew if he did, we might not find Kevin again because he’d disappear since he knew we had found the stolen items. I decided to arrest him since we had been able to locate some of the owners of the stolen property.” Mata says that the help and cooperation of Steve Ballard was a key to helping locate the property, “We got lucky. Steve Ballard was phenomenal with helping me out.” Kevin Ballard, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as cooperative, “At first he was upset that we were going to take “his” stuff. I told him that if he could prove the property was his, we’d return it to him. When we got him booked into jail he got very loud and upset and said that he wouldn’t talk to me but he’d talk to the deputy with me, Esley Anderson. So he talked to Esley and told him some info but he said that he committed the crimes by himself. That’s impossible because one of the pieces of stolen equipment was 500-gallon fuel tank. It took 6 of us to lift that up.”
Two charges were filed against Ballard. His probation was revoked as well. The two charges filed against him were 3rd Degree Felony Theft for the stolen John Deere tractor with a bond of $50,000 set. The tractor was valued at $30,000. Also filed was a State Jail felony theft for the stolen Gator with a $20,000 bond set. The Gator was valued at $14,500. The total bond amount currently stands at $74,000 but is sure to increase significantly once more charges are field.
Sheriff Squyers says that more charges are coming, “We have at least 8 more charges to file against him. We’re going to file 6 charges of 2nd degree felony Burglary of a Habitation and 2 State Jail Felony charges of Burglary of a Building.”
Recovered property includes the Gator, the John Deere Tractor, a 20’ oilfield flatbed trailer, furniture, a chainsaw, 500-gallon fuel tank, another trailer and other property.
Previously, Ballard had been arrested by Ballinger police chief Stanley Maresch on March 25th, 2018. An investigation that included the Ballinger police department, Runnels County Sheriff’s Office and Winters police department resulted in Ballard being charged with 5 counts of burglary of a building. The burglaries and thefts occurred at the airport in Ballinger, the Winters airport and other thefts occurred in the county. His bond was set at $210,000 for those cases. The recovered property in those cases included a trailer, a welder, cutting torches and other equipment.
Mata wanted to ensure that the other agencies that helped out on the investigation were recognized; The Texas Parks & Wildlife Game Warden, the Winters police department and his fellow deputies on the Runnels County Sheriff Department.
The cooperation of all the departments in the county help ensure the safety and security of the citizens within the county. The arrest of Ballard and recovery of the stolen equipment is due to the good old-fashioned police work of Mata and the others who assisted.