Police arrest man wanted in several theft investigations, including one at trade show in Springfield

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 4:54 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Police arrested a man wanted in connection to several theft cases, including one at a trade show in mid-October at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds.

“It’s not so easy to do this. We want people to be scared of stealing guns,” said Dave Metzger with Montainside Outfitters.

We first spoke with him after thousands of dollars worth of guns, jewelry, and other items were stolen from vendors attending a trade show at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds earlier this month. His booth was one of a few burglarized.

It was then word about the crime made its way throughout the community.

“Of course KY3 getting involved was a huge factor. People who follow us on social media regularly and look at our page all the time didn’t see it on our social media they saw it on the news,” he explained.

Lieutenant Jason Laub with Springfield Police credits the public for its help in leading them to Wells.

“That was pivotal. That’s what got the whole ball rolling on this,” he said.

The investigation dates back to thefts in September. Investigators say they were tipped off after evidence of the thefts appeared on social media. Investigators say he is also responsible for stealing weapons and vehicles in separate incidents around Springfield.

“We were able to use that information and it just snowballed into getting information for a search warrant. We were able to collect as much as we could,” said Lt. Laub.

Derek J, Wells, 37, of Springfield, faces 23 charges in all. The charges include receiving stolen property, unlawful use of a weapon, possession of a controlled substance, tampering, and a felon in possession of a firearm.

“It’s just sometimes we get lucky with just a simple tip. We put it on Facebook. Sometimes you get crickets, nobody responds. Sometimes within 15 minutes, you do. It’s hard to predict. It’s case by case,” said Lt. Laub.

Metzger said, “When it comes to illegal guns on our streets in the hands of criminals, it’s something that everyone can get behind.”

Wells has entered a plea of not guilty.

His case will be heard again this week.

He’s being held in the Greene County Jail without bond.

Police have arrested Wells 28 times in Springfield or Greene County. Investigators say he has been listed as a suspect in 49 additional cases since 2002. He is currently on parole for burglary.

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