Crime

Gun heist leads to car chase, viral Facebook post. It was an inside job, PRC cops say

Dennis Dean Henley
Dennis Dean Henley

A Facebook post that went viral in Pearl River County helped nab the final fugitive in a gun heist that turned out to be an inside job, deputies say.

Pearl River County chief investigator Marc Ogden said deputies arrested Dennis Dean Henley just before 11 a.m. Friday, but not before he led authorities on a multiple-county chase.

He said Henley was wanted in connection with a Nov. 20 gun heist on Eddie Harrell Road in Poplarville, where 14 long guns were stolen early in the morning.

Ogden said deputies arrested the other four people accused in the heist — including the gun owner’s son — over the last two days. Deputies then put Henley’s photo on Facebook, asking for the community’s help in locating the 38-year-old.

Within hours, the post had been shared nearly 750 times.

By Friday morning, deputies had enough information to locate Henley in the Barth area of Pearl River County. They attempted a traffic stop just before 7 a.m., but Henley drove off and zipped past two different school buses on their morning routes.

“He was driving very erratically and with no regard of human safety,” Ogden said.

Deputies received more tips from the community and once again located Henley, this time on Possum Trail Road in the Leetown community. Hancock County deputies laid in wait as a known associate in a white pickup truck drove by. They pulled over the truck about 11 a.m. and found Henley hiding behind the seat, Ogden said.

Henley is being held in the Pearl River County jail on 14 counts of possession of a weapon after a felony conviction, one count of conspiracy to commit burglary, one count of residential burglary and another count of eluding authorities.

How Henley was caught

Ogden said the burglary was originally uncovered when a man saw his neighbor’s home being robbed while he was out of town.

“He noticed something going on and it turned out that it was being burglarized,” Ogden said. “He said he saw two individuals jump into a car. He hopped into his car and followed him until the bad guys wrecked and took off on foot.”

Although the 14 guns were recovered by authorities at the time, the two suspects got away.

Ogden said that during the investigation it was determined a flat screen TV and cross-bow were also stolen during previous trips to the same house on Nov. 20. While interviewing Jacob Adam Tillman, 26, and Alyssa Marie Spiers, 23, in late November about the burglary, deputies learned Joseph Schmidt, 26, brought the TV and cross-bow to Spiers to pawn at a shop in Slidell.

After being interviewed by deputies, Ogden said Schmidt confessed to the burglary and identified Henley.

Ogden said Schmidt also identified Jacob Edwin Hariel, the home owner’s 27-year-old son, as being involved in the burglary. Ogden said Hariel helped plan and execute the burglary and served as the “lookout man.”

“He set it up,” Ogden said. “He let these people know what was in the house; he’s the one who gained entry into the house and then participated.”

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Schmidt is also being held by authorities on 14 counts of possession of a weapon by a felon, one count of residential burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit burglary.

Hariel, Tillman and Spiers are all being held on one count of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of burglary.

Ogden said bonds amounts are set at $10,000 for each weapons charge, $25,000 for each residential burglary charge, $5,000 per conspiracy charge and $10,000 for eluding authorities.

After Friday’s arrest, the PRC Sheriff’s Office posted an update to Facebook with an accompanying photo of a handcuffed Henley in the back of a pickup truck.

Ogden said the department was indebted to the community for the quick response.

“It pays dividends (to use Facebook),” he said. “We like the community involved. It makes for safer neighborhoods.”

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

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