EAST MONTGOMERY COUNTY – Four people are in jail and a fifth is on the run, thanks to a tip that led investigators to stolen vehicles, copper wire and even a portable office.
The suspect who escaped capture has not only been identified, he has previous experience as a fugitive featured in the news media.
Around 2 p.m. on Monday, members of the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office were working on their massive remodeling project at their office at the Montgomery County Annex in New Caney when they received an anonymous tip regarding possible stolen vehicles at a residence located at 20952 Lost Lakes Dr. in New Caney.
Constable Rowdy Hayden said officers arrived to find four men in the driveway, who appeared to be stripping copper wire. One of the men immediately ran and disappeared into a wooded area, and the other three were taken into custody. The female homeowner was also arrested.
On the property, investigating officers found four stolen vehicles, a stolen portable office and stolen copper wire. Some of the vehicles were parked in front of the house, Hayden said, with license plates on them belonging to other vehicles that have not been reported stolen.
Another vehicle had been stripped and was hidden in the woods and the portable office building sat near the residence and appeared to be in use.
Those arrested were:
Clarence John Painter, 34 of 210 Missionary Apts. in Spring, was charged with theft of copper wire; unauthorized use of a vehicle, and 4 outstanding warrants from Precinct 4. As of this writing, his bond information was not posted.
Matthew Kyle Cravens, 22, of 18507 Oak Dr. in Conroe was charged with theft of copper wire and five outstanding warrants from Precinct 4.
As of this writing, his bond information was not posted.
David Matthew Painter, 17, of 20952 Lost Lakes Dr. in New Caney was charged with theft of copper wire and theft/stolen firearm. His bond totals $3,000.
Debra Fenly Painter, 35, of 20952 Lost Lakes Dr. in New Caney was charged with theft of property, more than $1,500 but less than $20,000 (4 counts).
Her bond totals $6,000.
The suspect who fled is believed to be 37-year-old Christopher Burton Thomas of New Caney.
In April, 2008, Thomas was arrested by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office for stealing copper wire after a Houston television station showed hidden camera footage from an East Montgomery County communications tower. A viewer recognized Thomas and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.
(It is interesting to note that two of the officers in the video dressed in MCSO uniforms are now Pct. 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden and Pct. 4 Investigator Buck Clendennen).
Thomas pleaded guilty to theft of copper wire and was sentenced to two years deferred adjudication.
Although it has made him famous, or maybe infamous, Thomas’s misdeeds have not been limited to theft of copper wire. His prior convictions include two DWI convictions; multiple counts of driving while license suspended, driving while license invalid and possession of marijuana, along with unlawful carrying of a weapon.
Constable Hayden does not usually address wanted suspects through the media, but with Thomas, he made an exception.
“I’d like to send a message out to Mr. Thomas,” he said. “You just avoided the inevitable.”
“We’ll be coming for you.”
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Christopher Burton Thomas should contact the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office at 281-577-8985.