Stratford man arrested for burglary as ’porch piracy’ rises

As Christmas day grows nearer, Murray County residents have allegedly been dealing with their very own Grinch, or Grinches.

Davis Police Department Chief Danny Cooper said the Davis area in particular has seen a large increase in porch pirates and package burglars ’trying to steal Christmas.’

“We’ve had quite a few where presents people would order from Amazon and stuff like that that’s been stolen off their porches. I guess not burglaries, but porch pirating,” he said.

It’s not just porch pirating, however. Earlier this week, Cooper said the Murray County Sheriff’s Office worked a burglary where several Christmas presents were stolen out from under the tree of a Davis family.

According to Murray County court documents, at around 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 16, officers were dispatched to a residence located off of Swanda Road in reference to an alleged burglary.

The residents advised officers that they had come home to find the front door standing wide open and officers reportedly found a piece of the inside door jam laying on the entryway floor, according to a probable cause affidavit by a Murray County deputy.

Video footage captured by a camera in the living room of the residence from around 3:48 p.m. appeared to show a male subject placing multiple presents from under the Christmas tree into a striped pillow case.

“(The resident) said the pillow case had been taken and I saw that the pillows on the bed matched the sack seen in the video from the living room,” the Murray County deputy wrote in the affidavit.

The video footage was later posted to a Murray County Facebook group page, where one individual commented, stating that she recognized the suspect. Through further investigation, Murray County deputies reportedly identified the man as 39-year-old Thomas Joe Lewis Jr. of Stratford.

Deputies also discovered that Lewis is a registered sex offender and has several prior felony convictions in multiple Oklahoma counties, dating from Oct. 1999 to March, 2019, according to court documents. Lewis reportedly had warrants out for his arrest in a few recent cases.

In Oct. 1999, Lewis was convicted of lewd molestation in Garvin County. Other reported convictions include failure to register as a sex offender, forgery, child neglect, burglary in the second degree and knowingly concealing stolen property.

During a conversation with the Murray County Undersheriff, Lewis allegedly admitted to breaking into the residence on Dec. 16 and using methamphetamine. “He said that he took the striped pillow case from the bedroom and filled it with Christmas presents,” the affidavit said.

Lewis reportedly agreed to help officers retrieve the stolen Christmas gifts from his sister’s house in Davis. Lewis had sold the presents to another family member living at the residence shortly after the burglary, according to the affidavit.

When asked, the individual retrieved “numerous children’s toys and a pillow case” believed to have been used in the commission of the burglary. All of the items were returned to their rightful owners.

Lewis is currently being held at the Murray County jail for burglary in the second degree, with a bond of $25,000. If found guilty, Lewis faces imprisonment for no less than four years or life.

Cooper said he would encourage neighbors in the area to keep an eye out for each other. Porch pirating can also be prevented by having packages sent to the post office, UPS locations, directly to the store, one’s place of work or the residence of a friend or family member that will be home.

“Everybody have a safe Christmas and everybody needs to watch out for their neighbors because we’re getting a lot of reported burglaries and stuff coming in,” Cooper said. “Just be cautious and all of that.”