COVINGTON - The Newton County Sheriff's Office responded to a complaint of a theft at Factory Shoals Park and was able to track the alleged thief with some high-tech assistance, according to an incident report completed by Deputy Matt Roberts.
Roberts said the two sisters said they went swimming at the park around 2 p.m. July 22 and when they began gathering their belongings to leave around 3:20, they discovered their cell phones were missing.
The victims' service was through Sprint and they contacted that company which "began tracking the phones using the network's GPS Family Tracker. Both phones plotted to an address in the 200 block of Wade Street in Oxford," the report states.
The victims' mother told the deputy that apparently the party who had the phones kept turning them off and on because the tracking system sends alerts during the process.
Roberts said the victims' mother was able to furnish a log of the tracking history and print off a map showing an aerial view of where the phones were located.
After several attempts, a man answered one of the phones and the deputy spoke with him.
"I identified myself and asked him how he obtained it. The male said he found the phone in a garbage can at the park and denied finding the other one. He said he was at 207 Wade St. ... but hung up before I could get his name," the report states.
Deputies went to the Wade Street address and spoke to Robert Gaston, who again told them he found the phone in a garbage can, but handed it over to them.
"I told him that the phone he gave me was one of two phones reported stolen and asked him again did he have the other one. Gaston again denied having the other phone," the report states.
After showing him the GPS reports, Gaston agreed it revealed that both phones were at the 207 Wade St. location. He finally said, "Ya, I got it. It's inside," and went to get it, the report states.
The suspect said he didn't know why he didn't come clean with the officer immediately, or why he failed to notify the owner immediately after finding the phones.
Gaston, 37, of 1350 Seven Island Road, Buckhead, was arrested and charged with theft by taking.