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Police: Couple Passing Through Busted for Car Burglaries

Out-of-state man tried door handles looking for unlocked cars and then robbed them, police say.

Oak Lawn Police charged a couple in connection with a rash of car burglaries after victims’ stolen ID’s and belongings were discovered in the couple’s car during a traffic stop, reports said.

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While stopped at red light at 95th Street and 54th Avenue around 9:17 p.m. Oct. 23, the officer observed a maroon Nissan Altima bearing New York plates. After running a plate check, the officer determined that the car’s registration was suspended, police said.

When the traffic light changed to green, the officer waited to let the Nissan pass. Police said the Nissan slowed down but it would not pass the officer’s squad car. The Nissan and officer both continued to slow down. As the officer pulled up next to the Nissan, neither the driver nor the passenger would look at him, according to the report.

The officer was eventually able to get behind the Nissan when he activated the siren. The driver of the Nissan allegedly drove several blocks before turning off of 95th Street on to Lacrosse Avenue.

Before the cop got out of the car, the officer observed the driver, identified as Melissa Rodgers, 21, of Bee Branch, AR, reach her hands up to a sun glass holder in the car, reports said. 

The officer also observed the male passenger in the front seat, identified as Christopher Bispham, 22, allegedly reaching into the center console and under his seat.

When approaching the car's passenger side, the officer spoke to Bispham through the open window. Police said the odor of marijuana came wafting out the window.

Bispham said he was unaware that his plates were suspended, police said. Asked what all the reaching around the car was about, Bispham allegedly told the officer he didn’t know.

Another officer arrived on the scene to deal with Rodgers. Police learned that Rodgers, who was driving Bispham’s car, had had her Arkansas drivers license suspended, reports said.

Bispham allegedly told police he had been discharged from the military “because they were downsizing” and that he and Rodgers were driving through Oak Lawn from New York on their way to Oregon. He was staying with a military friend’s parents in the 8800 block of South Natoma Avenue.

Rodgers told police that she and Bispham had met on Facebook and were driving to Oregon. Both had been in Oak Lawn for three days, reports said.

Police searched the Nissan, where an unlabled pill bottle was located on the front passenger floor containing a small amount of marijuana and eight pills of Clonazepam, which is classified as a controlled substance.

Bispham told police that a friend gave him the pills, reports said. Police also found a red plastic straw with white residue, which Bispham allegedly said had been used to snort the Clonazepam “because it worked faster.”

A black, plastic BB gun with a silencer attached was found under the front passenger seat, along with a state ID belonging to a Summit resident. A checkbook, debit card and village parking ticket issued to an Oak Lawn woman were found in Rodgers purse, reports said.

Police also found ID belonging to an Oak Lawn Community High School student, a $25 gas gift card, a GPS unit and a pair of men’s gym shoes, reports said.

Rodgers was placed under arrest for driving on a suspended license. Bispham was placed under arrest for possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and drug equipment. Both were taken to the Oak Lawn police station.

Police spoke to the high school student’s mother who said that sometime in the overnight hours of Oct. 22, someone went into her son’s car that was parked in front of their house on the 9300 block of South 55th Avenue. Her son’s wallet containing his driver’s license and school ID, along with the gas gift card were stolen when her son forgot to lock his car.

Officers found a charger to power up the GPS unit, which located a home address at a funeral home in Crete. The funeral home owner believed the GPS unit may have been stolen from his nephew’s unlocked car at Chicago Ridge Mall. The owner was told to go to Chicago Ridge police and report the theft. The owner of the property decided to press charges.

Bispham gave a voluntary signed statement detailing his involvement in several car burglaries in the area of the home where he he had been staying, reports said.

Police said Bispham broke into one car while taking a walk on Sunday night. Early Monday morning, Rodgers allegedly drove Bispham’s car to several locations where he got out and tried unlocked car doors until he found one that was unlocked.

Bispham said all of the IDs found in his car came from cars that he had burglarized, according to the report. Police said that Bispham remembered going into an apartment complex and grabbing a woman’s purse out of one car, along with a new pair of men’s gym shoes, and some papers from the glove box.

He tired more car door handles until he set off a car alarm. He ran back to the car and Rodgers sped off, police said.

A short time later, Rodgers pulled into a nearby gas station, reports said. Bispham allegedly swiped with the debit card he had just stolen and pumped $30 worth of gas. He also remembered stealing a GPS unit from a car in the Chicago Ridge Mall parking lot, but wasn’t sure what day, police said.

According to the report, Bispham said he took property from cars over a three-day period. Usually Rodgers drove while he checked door handles. He said he did not use the fake gun to commit any crimes, but that it was just a toy.

Police said Bispham was apologetic, explaining that he had run out of money. He  was just trying to get home to Oregon and didn’t know what else to do.

Rodgers also signed a voluntary statement admitting to driving Bispham around Oak Lawn for the past two or three days while he went into unlocked cars and stole stuff, police said. She also remembered parking at the apartment complex and trying several car door handles, but couldn’t recall taking anything, reports said.

Rodgers put some stolen items in her purse. She recounted driving to a gas station and purchasing about $20 worth of gas using a stolen debit card. She couldn’t remember if she or Bispham swiped the car or which one of them pumped the gas, police allege.

Police said the woman confessed to burgling no more than five cars over the last several days.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office approved six felony counts for Bispham, including burglary to a motor vehicle and possession of a controlled substance, with additional misdemeanors for possession of marijuana, drug equipment and other citations.

Rodgers was issued two village citations for driving on a suspended license. Other felony charges were to be added pending a bank report after a receipt from the Oak Lawn woman’s debit card was found in Rodgers’ purse, police said.

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Farrell October 31, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Good thing that cop checked the license plates and kudos for being so persistent, otherwise, God knows how long their spree would have continued. In fact, after I finish writing my comment, I'm going outside to make sure I locked my car door. After I read about this, I checked out some of the stories of Chuck E Cheeses and while I thought some peoples' comments were hysterically funny, I also felt their fears and concerns that Oak Lawn is changing. I really hope not. After all, I fell in love with this area after coming from Chicago, where my car windows were constantly being smashed to bits in front of the house as well as in CTA parking lots (thieves liked my car stereos - I did, too). Eight-plus years after moving here, I still am very fond of this place - there is a lot to enjoy here. Let's hope it keeps up.
Pat F October 31, 2012 at 03:14 AM
A couple at a time.. keep up the good work.. Maybe if you catch enough of them they'll start steering clear of Oak Lawn!!
Bill Watson November 01, 2012 at 12:31 AM
My garage has been burgled twice in the last 6 months. First time overhead door was left open, second time service door was kicked in. OLPD was great both times. Nothing could be done, but OLPD made me feel as though they cared. I can't say enough about the fine work that OLPD does and this traffic stop is just one example. That said, I'm afraid that we're in for more of this from hopeless unemployed people roaming the country. The Republicans seem to look upon them as worthless leeches. They, like all of us, just want to get through life. I too would steal if I or my family were starving. I'm afraid that if cuts to social programs continue the number of desparate people will just continue to increase. Since I am retired this is not personal. I'd rather see the pre-Bush tax rates restored than pay for the incarseration of these hopeless desparate people. Anyway, way to go OLPD. I also like OLFD. Our attic-fan-caused fire, a few years ago, was no match for OLFD. I hope Carmie or JojoK proofreads this. I did the best that I could.
Lorraine Swanson November 01, 2012 at 03:37 AM
You did just fine, Bill. Thanks for your comment.
PD November 29, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Yes, we have a great Police Department and Fire Department!!! We appreciate all the great things they do for Oak Lawn.

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