Sounding like an episode of “World’s Dumbest Criminals,” the details of a string of arrests that solved an armed robbery and led to several drug cases reveal a drug-fueled underside to Payson.
The bizarre series of events involved stolen vehicles, a communal gun, drug use, a common middle name and a few lucky breaks for police. By the time the flurry of events ended, officers not only arrested the two people they believe conspired to rob a woman at a drive-thru ATM, but three others on unrelated charges.
The chain of events that eventually led to the arrests started on May 20 when police say Douglas Ralph Henneman, 36, and Rachel Tenney, 20, plotted to rob an unsuspecting motorist at the Chase drive-thru ATM.
At 10:20 p.m., Henneman, wearing a ski mask, allegedly approached a vehicle with a silver handgun and demanded a woman’s money. Henneman then ran off with the money, getting into a vehicle driven by Tenney, said Police Chief Don Engler.
The pair fled into the darkness, leaving few clues behind.
The case seemed to go cold until police got a call about a June 3 break-in at Miller Auto Works at 600 W. Main St.
Someone had stolen a van needing repair from the back lot of the shop overnight.
Tenney and Henneman later admitted to police that they had taken the van. Reportedly, they noticed the van’s keys inside the vehicle where it sat parked out front of the auto shop and grabbed them. The next night they returned and jumped a security fence. They tried in vain to use the van to batter down the gate, said Sgt. Dean Faust. When that didn’t work, they dismantled the gate’s hardware.
One problem: The van didn’t run well. It was, after all, in the shop.
“For future reference, pick one that is running and not at an automotive shop,” Faust said.
The couple eventually dropped the balky van off in the Paysonglo Lodge parking lot. The next day, an officer spotted the stolen vehicle and impounded it. Inside, detectives found identification in the van tying the pair to the crime.
Stupid Criminal Tip #1:
Don’t leave ID behind when you
abandon a stolen car.
Detectives Matt Van Camp and Mike Varga started asking around for information on the pair.
In Payson, drugs lie at the root of many crimes, often committed by a small group of frequent fliers, Engler said.
“Often times there are little groups of people that use drugs together, that purchase drugs from each other, that are involved in stolen property, possession of stolen property and trading stolen property for drugs,” Engler said. “They form little cells or groups and surround themselves with people that often times are displaying similar type behavior. So once we figure out which group they are in, we start looking at the individuals that we know that frequent that group.”
Tenney and Henneman had reportedly been evicted from their home and were living in their vehicle, Faust said.
On June 4, an officer located the pair on West Bonita Street.
While Varga and Van Camp interrogated the couple about the van, which they reportedly admitted stealing, Varga noticed something familiar about an article of clothing Henneman was wearing, Faust said.
Then it hit him: He’d seen that same item in the bank surveillance video worn by the armed robber.
Stupid Criminal Tip #2:
Change your clothes after starring
in a surveillance video.
Henneman allegedly admitted he had robbed the woman at the ATM, Faust said. Ironically, Henneman told police he might know the woman, although she didn’t recognize him because of his mask.
“I believe he did recognize the victim as he was committing the crime,” Engler said. “But it wasn’t a predetermined thing that he had selected her, it was just a coincidence that he chose that vehicle, at that time, but once he got there, I do believe he recognized the victim.”
Stupid Criminal Tip #3:
You’re likely to bump into witnesses/
victims if you do your crimes in the
same small town where you live.
But while police had both suspects in custody, they still didn’t have the handgun Henneman had reportedly used in the robbery.
Henneman told detectives he had last seen the gun at a home in the 1000 block of South Cedarcrest Circle. It is unclear if the gun belonged to Henneman.
“The gun has probably passed through several hands ,” Engler said.
On June 4, officers went to the home on Cedarcrest, but did not find the gun. However, while serving the warrant, Shannon Lee Chambers, 35, arrived at the home. Officers allegedly found Chambers in possession of drugs and arrested him on charges of possession of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia, Engler said.
While officers were still at the home, Jason Lee Estrella, 29, drove up in a vehicle. Officers suspected Estrella was driving under the influence. After he failed a sobriety test, they arrested him for DUI, Engler said.
Police also arrested Estrella on charges of possession of dangerous drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Stupid Criminal Tip #4:
If you have drugs in the car and
pull up to a house with cops out
front, keep driving.
Despite the flurry of arrests, police still couldn’t find the gun.
Then, randomly, on June 5, Sgt. Joni Varga stopped a vehicle on West Main Street for unsafe lane usage. The driver did not have a license so police prepared to impound the vehicle. As they went through the car, Varga discovered the passenger, Ronald Lee Hines, 30, had the handgun from the armed robbery. Police aren’t sure where Hines got the gun.
But hang on: It gets even weirder.
Hines assured police he planned to give the gun to the woman that had been held up at Chase Bank, who he apparently knew. Faust said he still can’t figure out why Hines wanted to give the victim the gun.
Police charged Hines with possession of dangerous drugs, narcotic drugs and two counts of weapons misconduct.
In another bizarre twist, police also tied Tenney and Henneman to a theft from Walmart after they found a 40-inch television in the back of the couple’s vehicle, apparently stolen from Walmart.
Engler said Walmart has suffered a rash of shopliftings. Police recently arrested two other people, including a Walmart employee and a juvenile, for thefts from the big box store. Police have not connected those cases to the robbery.
“Our burglary rate has always been driven by the amount of drug activity in the community, but what alarms me is the fact that these individuals are stepping up to person crimes, which an armed robbery is a person crime.”