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‘Chop shop’ found on North Whidbey

A local tow truck driver was flabbergasted last week when, during what he thought would be a routine impoundment, he discovered a surgery apparently abandoned mid-procedure and the “patient’s” carefully-harvested organs and entrails scattered around two separate operating rooms.

The patient was a stolen Honda Accord and its organs and entrails sections of the body, pieces of the interior and an engine waiting to be transplanted. The operating room was a garage located on a piece of Jones Road property. And the surgeon was 27-year-old Tristen Fears, who is being held on $10,000 bail for possession of stolen property.

Detective Dan Todd with the Island County Sheriff’s Office found the vehicle March 27 after receiving information about a stolen vehicle at the North Whidbey address. Upon arrival, the property owner gave Todd permission to access the garage. Inside he found the dissected vehicle and a VIN check confirmed the Honda was stolen.

“This thing was chopped up pretty good,” the detective said.

Mike Christian, son of the Christian’s towing owner, was called in to impound the vehicle. He was equally nonplussed.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” Christian said. “The car had been sectioned. It was like something you’d see on TV. It was a regular ‘chop shop.’ I said, ‘Hell, this is a wrecking yard. My ... jaw just dropped.”

Todd served a search warrant the following day and impounded the vehicle, which was stolen from Edmonds in mid-February. Another Honda Accord located on a different part of the property was also impounded after it was found wearing parts of the stolen vehicle’s metal outfit. The proverbial smoking gun dangled above the 1994 Frankenstein’s monster EX.

“The engine was suspended by an engine hoist right over the vehicle where it was going to be installed,” Christian said.

Save for the number of doors, Fears’ Accord was identical to the stolen Honda. Todd said his intentions were not exactly concealed.

“He apparently stole the vehicle specifically for its parts,” he said. “Some parts like the fender, the trunk and other smaller pieces had already been installed.”

The expansive property has seen its fair share of people come and go, Todd said. Fears was reportedly given permission to use both garages while he “worked on his car.” The landowner was apparently not aware of the illegal activity.

The Sheriff’s Office was able to recover most of the removed parts, which were scattered around the property and in both garages.

“Some of the interior pieces were found in the bushes,” Christian said. “As wet as it’s been lately, the pieces weren’t even wet. They hadn’t been there very long.”

The veteran tower surmised that many of the cuts were made with a powerful, professional body saw. The cleanly-sheered metal and windshield backed up Christian’s theory.

Chop shop is a slang phrase referring to an illegal location or business which disassembles stolen automobiles and sells them as parts. The Jones Road site resembled the colloquialism, but Todd said Fears was not gutting the Honda for resale. The operation was a one-man project undertaken to outfit the suspect’s car, inside and out, with “new” parts.

“There were a lot of cars on the property. It was like a junkyard,” the detective said. “I’ve seen stolen vehicles brought to Island County or stereos stolen. I’ve never seen anything chopped to this extent. It was obvious why Fears stole the car.”

Both vehicles, one minus its carapace, are currently at Christian’s Towing. Fears could theoretically pick up his car if he makes bail.

“There’s no hold on it. The suspect could come in and claim it,” Christian said.

The owner received the good news and the bad. The stolen car was found but its condition had markedly changed.

“She said she was going to send her husband up for the car,” Christian said. “I had to tell her not to bother, it’s in pieces.”

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