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— Benton County Sheriff 's Office investigator Audrey Thompson checked with auctioneers across several states in a hunt for a stolen John Deere 550 HLT bulldozer, but a local tip led to the machine's recovery.

The bulldozer, along with a 2002 John Deere 6420 tractor, was reported stolen over the July 4 weekend. The bulldozer, which belongs to Sweetser Construction, was stolen from a construction site off Dawn Hill Road, according to Thompson.

The tractor was stolen from an area nearby, the investigator said.

Thompson began her hunt by putting out fliers locally about the stolen bulldozer and tractor. She also contacted auctioneers in several states.

The fliers paid off. She was able to locate the bulldozer in Cherokee City on land belonging to Linda Asher. Thompson went to the residence, where the bulldozer was parked.

The identifying stickers had been removed, but the serial number matched the number of the stolen bulldozer, Thompson said.

Billy Asher claimed he had rented the bulldozer for $500 in cash, and he was supposed to call the person when he finished with the bulldozer, Thompson said. The investigator believes Asher was supposed to be renting the bulldozer on a weekly basis. Asher did not have a contract, though, Thompson said.

Asher was arrested Tuesday for theft by receiving, a class B felony. He is being held in the Benton County Jail pending a bond hearing.

The company was so grateful for the return of the bulldozer, which was valued at $97,000, that Thompson was sent flowers.

Thompson is still seeking information to recover the tractor, which is valued at $107,000. The passenger-side step to the tractor is damaged and rusted. The enclosed-cab tractor also has damage on the front passenger-side fender, and the John Deere stickers are beginning to peel, Thompson said.

Anyone with information on the stolen tractor is asked to call 271-1009.

News, Pages 1 on 07/29/2009

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