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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Colwich family struggles to cope with impact of year-old burglary

By Stan Finger
The Wichita Eagle

It’s been a year now since someone pried open a hole in the back of a transmission shop in Colwich and made off with a truck and $100,000 in tools.

No arrests have been made.

Steve Jett wants whoever is responsible to know that they didn’t just create a hole in a building when they pried open a back wall in the steel building – they cut a hole in his business’ future.

“When people steal, they get a fraction of what this stuff’s worth,” said Jett, owner of Transplant, a transmission repair business. “They don’t realize the damage they can do.”

Although the truck was recovered, the tools are still missing – many of them specialized diagnostic equipment Jett has acquired over the course of 41 years in business.

“It’s devastated our family,” said Shawn Jett, Steve’s daughter.

Although he has been able to acquire basic tools on credit from Snap-On tools, Steve Jett said last year’s theft has hamstrung his company. He has had to turn down many jobs, he said, because he no longer has the tools to diagnose what’s causing the transmission to malfunction.

“I’m battling a vehicle now – if I had some of that equipment that was stolen, I could figure this thing out a lot quicker,” he said. “As it is, I have to go the round-about way to figure it out. It’s a lot of man hours.”

Replacing those specialized tools would cost far more than he can afford.

“It’s out of our reach,” he said.

At 61, he said, he can’t afford to dip into his retirement savings for the tools.

“It’s been pretty hard on my health,” he said of the burglary. “It’s a lot of stress.”

The case remains under investigation, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Detective Jeremy Banning said.

“It’s not a dead case,” Banning said.

Shawn Jett said she hopes someone will learn of the hardship caused by the crime and share information that leads to an arrest in the case.

The family has put up a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the solving of the case.

Maybe, Shawn Jett says, someone will have a change of heart about holding onto some key information if they realize what the burglary has done to the victims. Or maybe somebody who knows something about who did it is now mad about something they did, and wants to get back at them.

All that matters, she said, is that the case be solved.

The family has installed a security system in the business now and taken other precautions to prevent further burglaries.

The alarm is set to notify the Jetts at their house near the business, as well as alert the Colwich police and the sheriff’s office.

“I don’t know how much better coverage we can get,” Steve Jett said. “We want to protect our business.

“Why do things have to be like that?”

Contact Stan Finger at 316-268-6437.

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