MEDINA, Ohio - Clues can come from unusual places, and sometimes they land in just the right spot. In Medina County, bird droppings may turn out to be the crucial clue that solves a multi-county crime spree.
"Anything and everything you use to make an identification," said Detective Jim Cartwright. "It's probably the strangest one I have to date though."
On April 30, a front door was shattered at the Fraternal Order of Eagles on Rittman Road in Wadsworth. Surveillance video shows masked men wearing gloves inside the building. One of the men is seen pulling a dolly and roaming the halls. The other man was captured rummaging through the bar area.
The men busted open three interior doors and stole about $8,400. Some of that money would have been donated by the Eagles to community groups, according to trustee Ken Myers.
"We donate to different things, and when they come in and rob us like that, it's just less we can donate to different organizations, so it's pretty low," Myers said.
Video showed the crooks drive off in a 2018 Chevy Silverado, and detectives noted that the getaway vehicle appeared to have bird droppings on the hood.
"The bird poop is what we picked up on," Cartwright said.
In the meantime, detectives obtained another surveillance video form Tab Property Enhancement, a landscaping company in Hinckley. Investigators said the same pickup pulled onto the property on April 29 and loaded a $16,000 mini excavator onto a stolen trailer and drove off.
"It's pretty brazen to just pull onto somebody's property and take the stuff," Cartwright said.
The big break in the investigation came a few days later when Strongsville police reported that two men were overdosing in a pickup truck. A Strongsville officer, who was aware that Medina County detectives were looking for a similar truck, contacted the sheriff's department.
Cartwright responded to a tow yard and noticed the bird droppings were on the same spot on the hood as seen on the Eagles' surveillance video.
Detectives are now building cases against two suspects who could be involved in as many as 15 other similar crimes in Medina, Lorain and Cuyahoga counties.
"We want them caught pretty bad. It's not just one isolated incident. These are things that keep going on and on," Cartwright said.
Myers found it amusing that the bird droppings could ultimately land the crooks behind bars.
"That would be really something else," Myers said.
Anyone with information on the crimes or the men seen in the videos (see media player above) is asked to call the Medina County Sheriff's Department or the Hinckley Police Department.