Today’s lesson: Be careful whose ATV you steal

EAST MONTGOMERY COUNTY – No one familiar with soft-spoken, laidback Montgomery County Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts would ever say he goes looking for trouble, but few could argue that trouble seems to find him. Eleven days after the judge found himself directly in the path of a high speed multi-agency police pursuit, he was out trying to locate a truck pulling a freshly stolen ATV.

Around 2 p.m. on Monday, Jamie Metts (the judge’s son) was driving toward his home off of North Duck Creek Rd. of off Hwy 105 in the Security area when he passed something strange a short distance from his house. A green Chevy pickup truck was pulling a 4-wheeler with a man riding on it, despite the fact that it was raining and had been all day. Jamie Metts thought the ATV resembled his, but between the rain falling and getting the longest look in his rearview mirror, he was unsure until reaching his house. Jamie Metts said he walked onto his porch and found his 4-wheeler was missing. He then turned the doorknob to make sure his home was secure before jumping back into his truck to try and find the thieves.

Jamie Metts called his dad first, who immediately headed in that direction. Judge Metts called the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, who dispatched deputies to the area. Meanwhile, Jamie Metts called a couple of his friends who he knew would be home because, like his, their jobs required dry weather.

Judge Metts, who was at his office in New Caney, went north on US 59 to Splendora, then west on FM 2090 to Daw Collins Road, which intersects with Old Hwy 105, where he suspected the thieves might have fled. The judge said he assumed they would go somewhere to load the 4-wheeler for transport. Living in the area his entire life, the judge knew the best spot in the area to make that transition would probably be the Security Cemetery.

He was on the right track, but by the time Judge Metts reached the cemetery and recognized the distinctive tracks made by the special tires on his son’s 4-wheeler, the thieves were gone. The tracks looked fresh, he said, and area residents told him they saw the ATV towed down the road and then saw it leave in the bed of a pickup.

The judge scoured area roads, thinking the thieves had not gone far and he might get lucky. Jamie Metts did the same, as did a couple of his friends. None were successful.

Jamie Metts filled out a report with the MCSO deputies and everyone disbursed, going their separate ways. About that time, Jamie Metts said he realized it was a little past time to pickup his kids at Austin Elementary School on Hwy 105.

He and Jerry Fritts, a friend who was riding with him during the search, headed for the school, traveling west on Old Hwy 105. As they neared the intersection with Hwy 105, something again caught Jamie Metts’ eye. Inside a mini storage facility on the right side of the road, he saw a pickup truck with his stolen 4-wheeler. The pickup was not the one he saw pulling his ATV, and was occupied by a male driver and a female passenger. But it was definitely his 4-wheeler, which had distinctive tires and wheels, easily recognizable from the road.

He called 911 as he blocked the driveway. At first, Jamie Metts said the man driving the pickup and his female passenger simply looked as though they wondered what he was doing. Eventually, the pickup’s driver decided to ask why his exit was blocked.

As the suspect stepped out of his truck, Robert Miller stopped at the storage facility. Miller was another friend of Jamie Metts’ who was involved in the search. As the suspect began to approach Metts, Fritts and Miller, asking what was happening, they walked toward him. The trio told the suspect, 52-year-old Raymond Paul Griffis that they were detaining him for police. Jamie Metts said Griffis denied stealing the 4-wheeler, saying he “got it from some other guys.”

Cut and Shoot Police took Griffis into custody and held him until the arrival of MCSO District 1 Deputy Cross, who transported Griffis to the Montgomery County Jail, where he was charged with theft of property valued more than $1,500 but less than $20,000, with bond set at $1,500. Griffis was already on probation for a felony possession of a controlled substance charge to which he pleaded guilty in June.

The other person or persons involved in the theft have not been arrested, but multiple witnesses provided information. The case will be referred to the MCSO Auto Theft Division for investigation.

The incident might have been the first that directly involved Jamie Metts, but his family has had an exciting year aside from that incident, the high speed pursuit and the many newsworthy court rulings of Judge Metts.

In early June, a high speed chase ended after the suspect turned off of Old Hwy 105 onto Metts Road, where much of the judge’s family lives, and crashed. In March, someone tried to make a dumpsite of the property on the corner of Metts Road and Old Hwy 105, which is owned by members of the judge’s family. Members of the Pct. 4 Constable’s Office investigate and forced those who dumped the garbage to return and clean up their mess.

Judge Metts pointed out that the suspects were apprehended in all of the cases and said he hoped the latest incident would help send a message to thieves to stay out of Pct. 4. The judge said he feels confident the others involved in the theft will be caught because of the willingness of alert neighbors to assist in the investigation.

Both Judge and Jamie Metts pointed out that it probably was not the best idea to steal from homes in a blue-collar area on a rainy day because a lot of men will be at home.