Man charged in chop shop operation

CONYERS -- A Lithonia man who was wanted by authorities for allegedly operating a chop shop turned himself in at the Rockdale County Jail.

Bobby Lee Hunt, 35, 3776 Londonderry Court, Lithonia, turned himself in Sept. 6. He faces charges of owning, operating or conducting a chop shop and two counts of theft by receiving stolen property.

Rockdale County Sheriff's Office Investigator Michael Camp said Hunt became a suspect on Aug. 16 after a deputy patrolling in the area of Sigman Road and Chambers Drive received a LoJack security system hit on a 1997 Chevrolet Tahoe that was reported stolen the day before in East Point.

The LoJack signal indicated that the stolen vehicle was inside what appeared to be an auto repair garage at 1509 General Arts Road, Suite A. According to the deputy's report, there were numerous old vehicles parked beside the building and auto parts scattered about on the outside.

Investigators were called to the scene and a search warrant was obtained for the building. Inside, officers found the stolen Tahoe and another stolen vehicle, along with a stolen engine and transmission, according to Camp.

Hunt was not at the garage at the time of the search.

That was the same morning that a Conyers man driving in the General Arts area fled from a deputy who was there to serve the search warrant. Noel Heard, 42, of a Gwinnett County address, overturned his vehicle on Farmer Road, ran on foot and killed himself with a single gunshot from a .40 caliber Glock pistol.

Inside Heard's car deputies found $8,000 in cash and approximately 50 pounds of marijuana, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which was called in to investigate that incident.

According to the RCSO, Heard's vehicle appeared suspicious to the deputy. The deputy turned around to follow Heard, who then fled at a high rate of speed and overturned on Farmer Road near Rockbridge Road.

According to the RCSO, the deputy rounded a bend in the road in time to see Heard crawl out of the vehicle and run behind a house, where he shot himself. Heard was transported to Rockdale Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

Camp said the chop shop investigation and the incident with Heard were not related.

"The guy that ran from us is not connected at all," Camp said. "He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."