District court

Preliminary hearings for three people accused of stealing from storage sheds waived their right to complete preliminary hearings in District Court on Friday afternoon and the judge set arraignment dates.

A fourth person failed to show up in court.

The preliminary hearings in the two separate court cases were continued from June 28 because of the absence of a key witness and of evidence.

Boyd Hatfield, 49, and Sierra L. Machnicki, 30, face seven felony charges in the two cases. Candice Rhea, 36, is accused of assisting in the March theft of a 1967 Mustang from an Abilene storage unit.

Magistrate Judge Keith Collett set March 28 for arraignment dates for Hatfield and Rhea. Arraignment for Machnicki was set for Sept. 4.

At the first preliminary hearing in June, Abilene Assistant Police Chief Jason Wilkins testified that video evidence taken from the storage unit and two other Abilene businesses helped in locating a vehicle thought to be involved in the March 18 theft of the Mustang. Wilkins said that in working with the Salina Police Department, four suspects thought to be involved were identified.

Based on video, Abilene police investigators also thought the vehicle used in the theft and the stolen Mustang were recorded at a convenient store in Hesston.

The first preliminary hearing was delayed to allow the Abilene Police Department to review newly acquired evidence.

Wilkins said that on May 8 police were called to another storage unit for suspicious activity. The owner of that unit reported an RV appeared to be stuck and a male and a female walking in the area said the vehicle was going to be towed.

Wilkins said the storage shed owner called police when he did not see a wrecker in the vicinity and saw the male and female leave on foot.

Wilkins said the tag on the 2015 Expedition RV did not match the vehicle, which was owned by a Wichita resident. After obtaining a search warrant for the 2014 Freightliner, three people were found in the vehicle. They were questioned and released.

The owner of the Expedition testified that the value of the RV is between $100,000 and $200,000. Damage was estimated at between $70,000 and $100,000.

Video recorded another RV leaving the area. That 2004 Ford E-450 Chinook also was reported stolen.

Wilkins testified that the Abilene Police Department was informed May 16 that the Mustang and the Chinook had been recovered at a garage in Wichita and two people were in custody.

Even though the vehicle identification number had been removed from the Mustang and it was painted with blue stripes, it was identified by the owners as the stolen Abilene vehicle. The ignition switch on the Chinook had been damaged.

Harfield and Machnicki have been charged with seven felonies while Rhea is facing four felony charges.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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