Reputed test drive suspect surrenders

COLUMBIANA – One of the men believed to have stolen a car last week in Columbiana turned himself in to police on Monday.

Columbiana Officer Richard Whitfield said Matthew Faulkner, 21, of East Palestine, came to the police station and admitted to Detective Wade Boley he was in the vehicle reported stolen from Dalton Lappert of New Waterford.

Faulkner and his older brother, George Faulkner Jr., 26, also of East Palestine, reportedly met Lappert at the 7&14 Truck Stop in Columbiana last Wednesday.

Lappert was attempting to sell his 1996 Pontiac Firebird vehicle and allowed the brothers to take it for a test drive. When they did not return 20 minutes later, he reported it stolen.

Pennsylvania State Police found the car unoccupied on Anderson Road in Enon Valley, Pa., later that day, but the brothers were nowhere to be found. Two days later, after some online investigative help from local Facebook users, police identified the brothers and issued a warrant for their arrest.

Whitfield said Matthew Faulkner did not admit to arranging the car theft, but did admit he had been a passenger.

“He didn’t admit that it was his idea … He didn’t give any information as to where his brother might be,” the officer said.

Patrolman Kevin Kloss took Faulkner to the county jail and he appeared in county Municipal Court Tuesday on the theft charge.

A June 27 preliminary hearing was set, with bond set at $10,000 cash or surety.

Meanwhile, police are still looking for Faulkner Jr., and Whitfield said it is not the first time he has evaded officials.

“He has a history of running from the police so it’s anybody’s guess where he might be,” he said.

Police Chief Tim Gladis is optimistic the elder brother will be found.

“We would hope he could turn himself in. He’ll turn up,” he said.

The chief thanked the Facebook users who helped police identify them after Lappert posted the theft on his own profile.

“Social media is a crime-fighting tool. They gave us names based on the descriptions of the men and their tattoos. Things like that solved the case,” he said.

He added it’s not the first time social media has played a role in solving crime locally.