Man arrested same day he stole van after owner sees him driving it

- A restaurant owner on his way to go fishing in Burke County spotted a van that had been stolen from his business early Tuesday morning, and tailed the suspect in the van until police arrived.

Matthew Tyler Straughan, 28, has been charged with one felony count each of breaking and entering a building, larceny after breaking and entering, and larceny of a motor vehicle in Lincoln County. He was charged in Burke County with felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle.  

Employees at the Home Place Restaurant said that this morning a man, now identified as Straughan, was already inside the business when they arrived at 5:30 a.m. They assumed he was a new employee.

Straughan stayed with the employees for another 30 minutes before taking the keys to the business' white 1998 Ford van and driving away. Straughan is also accused of stealing candy, soft drinks, and a money jar.

Surveillance video from the restaurant showed the man breaking into the front door around 3:30 a.m. The employees entered through a rear door and didn't notice the broken front door. 

Clay Heafner, owner of the Home Place Restaurant was on his way to Burke County for a planned fishing trip when he spotted the van stolen from his restaurant early this morning. He immediately called 911.

"I am on South 181 heading into Morganton and I had a vehicle stolen from my business and I am behind him right now," said Heafner to the 911 dispatcher. "We followed him all the way, we found him on 181 and Brown Mountain. We were fixing to start fishing. I said there is my damn van," Heafner said.

Heafner followed the van until a Morganton Public Safety Officer could stop the vehicle.

"There we go. We got him. They got the lights on," Heafner said while on the phone with 911.

"Do they have him pulled over," asked the dispatcher.

"They are working on it. That is awesome. Hell to the yes,' said Heafner.

The van was recovered and returned to the restaurant. Straughan was taken into custody. He is being held in the Burke County Jail. 


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