Kevin Wooten, 40, and Nathan Austin, 34, the two men arrested Thursday by the Dade County Sheriff's Department at a Porter Road address on Sand Mountain, remain in custody at the Dade County jail, but charges had not been filed against them as of midmorning on Friday.
What those charges will be is the question of the day. Investigators became interested in Wooten and Austin in connection with a stolen truck, questioned them because they were driving another truck without a tag, arrested them because of a revoked license, then found methamphetamine in a house they were associated with. And then of course there are the possibly stolen components of other vehicles found on the property.
"We had a tip from a citizen who saw a possible stolen truck," said Dade Sheriff Ray Cross (pictured above with Investigator Cindy Thurman and the stolen Silverado). "We had one stolen Sunday off of District Line Road. That led us to this property back here."
Wooten was speaking at a press conference he called Thursday afternoon in the front yard of 1497 Porter Road (right) on Sand Mountain, where tow trucks had loaded up both the stolen truck, a white Silverado, and a black truck the arrestees had been driving. He explained that the 1497 house was owned by the same family as a nearby brick house also involved in the case, 1433 Porter.
Both those houses are listed on the county tax rolls as the property of Janice Wooten. Sheriff Cross said officers stopped the black truck because of the no-license-plate issue after it pulled out of the 1433 house and into the yard of the 1497 house a few hundred feet down the road, which the sheriff said was presently vacant. Questioning the truck's occupants, they found, said Cross, that: "The driver was revoked, the passenger gave a wrong name, and both of them had warrants on them."
The Sheriff's Department has not yet released what warrants those were. Sheriff Cross said the passenger was a "habitual offender out of Tennessee." But later booking information lists Nathan Austin as having an Alabama driver's license.
In any case, said the sheriff, officers then asked of and were granted permission by the owner to search her home. "Inside we found 10 to 12 ounces of liquid meth and about four grams of crystal meth," said Cross.
But he said that the two arrests had been made in conjunction with the traffic offenses, not the drugs.
Nor, said the sheriff, were the men arrested--yet, anyway--in connection with the theft of the Silverado. And the fact that the chassis of another vehicle was found on the property, and another chassis found nearby in the woods, he stressed, is still under investigation and may or may not lead to the conclusion that the Wooten property was a "chop shop." "Right now we can't really say anything," said Cross. "I'm kind of headed that way but I can't say it."
The sheriff said the stolen Silverado would be fingerprinted when GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) agents take the matter up on Monday.