Madison County Sheriff Ben Stewart reports that on Wednesday Jan. 6, at 10:11 a.m., Deputy Knight responded to a reported call of burglary in progress and battery case, off of County Road 360. Upon arrival, Deputy Knight learned that the victim had observed a truck back into the residential driveway beside their home that was being renovated. The victim assumed it was someone they knew and walked over to the residence. As the victim arrived at the residence he/she discovered a white male attempting to break into the home. The suspect immediately grabbed the victim with a large screwdriver in his hand, presenting it in a stabbing motion towards the victim. The victim continued to struggle with the suspect while screaming for help. The victim eventually broke free from the suspect receiving scratches from the screwdriver on their bicep area. The suspect fled away in a silver F-150 extended cab truck with a dent behind the passenger door. The victim somehow managed to capture a picture of the suspect’s vehicle as it was fleeing the home. The picture captured the rear half of the driver’s side. An immediate BOLO (Be On Look Out alert) for the suspect’s vehicle was provided to all units in an attempt to locate but there was no immediate success. The victim provided additional information relating to the physical description of the suspect in an attempt to identify.
Sheriff’s Office Staff Sergeant Rich Klein was assigned the case and conducted additional interviews with the victim to assist with furthering the case and identifying the suspect. SSgt. Klein provided the victim with a series of “photo line-ups” derived from physical characteristics and descriptions provided by the victim with no success. SSgt. Klein obtained enough detail to have composite sketches drawn of the suspect to share with other agencies in an attempt to identify.
SSgt. Klein’s investigation led him to surrounding counties to compare similar types of criminal activity in other jurisdictions. SSgt. Klein soon discovered that Lowndes and Thomas County Georgia were also investigating very similar cases and Klein further learned that Thomas County also obtained a partial photo of the suspect’s vehicle during one of their cases. The agencies compared evidence to include what SSgt. Klein had that did identify at least two persons of interest in the Thomas, Lowndes and Brooks County areas.
On Saturday, Jan. 16, SSgt. Klein received notification that Brooks County, Ga. had conducted a traffic stop on one of the persons of interest and Thomas County was conducting an interview. Soon thereafter, SSgt. Klein was notified that the subject confessed to the crimes to include the case in Madison County. SSgt. Klein followed up with the victim and conducted additional “photo line-ups” at which time the victim positively confirmed and identified the suspect.
SSgt. Klein obtained “No-Bond” warrants for the suspect. The suspect remains in the Thomas County Jail and the warrant will be executed when the suspect is extradited to Florida. The suspect was identified as Walter Eller, 56, of Quitman, Ga.