Man jailed for stealing car from jail after earlier release

Mar. 12—A Vinemont man who was released on Thursday after more than 18 months in Morgan County Jail is back inside after deputies said he was spotted stealing a Morgan County Sheriff's Office vehicle from the jail parking lot.

Andrew Joseph Chenoweth, 33, allegedly stole a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria before he was stopped by a Decatur police officer at AutoZone on Sixth Avenue Southeast and charged with first-degree theft, according to an investigator affidavit.

Chenoweth's lengthy jail stay began when he was allegedly found in possession of 3.5 grams of marijuana in June 2022 and arrested, court documents show. He pleaded guilty three days later to second-degree possession and was given a 60-day suspended sentence with 24 months of unsupervised probation.

As part of the agreement, Chenoweth was also instructed to complete a court referral program aimed at alcohol and drug abuse education the following month. According to court records, he was rearrested after he failed to attend.

Chenoweth spent 13 days back in jail before a judge reinstated his conditions of release, court documents show. Less than a week later, Chenoweth was arrested again when a business owner at 2610 U.S. 31 S, near Target, caught Chenoweth in a parked vehicle on his property, according to an investigator affidavit.

"The owner of the business approached the vehicle and found Chenoweth sitting in the front driver's seat," the affidavit reads. "The glovebox of the vehicle was opened, and Chenoweth was rummaging through it."

Court records show Chenoweth was subsequently charged with breaking and entering a vehicle, a class C felony. This time when he went back before a judge, pretrial release was denied.

A court assessment of Chenoweth filed after his breaking-and-entering arrest notes that he claimed to be from Oregon and planned to "get his daughter" and return there. The assessment notes he has several arrests in Oregon, including for assault, and was issued a protection order barring him from harassing his daughter and his daughter's mother.

Three weeks before his breaking-and-entering arrest, when he was detained for failing to attend his court referral program, Chenoweth wrote a letter to District Judge Shelly Waters, according to court filings. In it, he asked why he wasn't being released and for his lawyer's phone number and next court date.

"I been trying to get home because my wife is having my first kid and I know I lost my job because of being in here," he wrote.

Early last year, another judge granted a motion by Chenoweth to enroll in substance abuse treatment and pretrial supervision, pending an assessment, court records show. In a document filed in district court, a Morgan County Community Corrections treatment officer attached an email from McLemore Consulting LLC, the apparent substance abuse assessors.

"McLemore Consulting went to the Morgan County Jail on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, to assess Andrew Chenoweth," the email from McLemore reads. "Chenoweth was very confused about where he was at. He stated that this was not Morgan County Jail and we were holding him hostage. He then refused the assessment. He swore that the judge was in disguise and was really a female family member."

Consequently, Chenoweth's attorney moved the court for a mental evaluation of her client, and it was granted. Since then, he was otherwise incarcerated in Morgan County Jail until court records show he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering on March 5. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, which was covered by his time already served.

When Chenoweth was released on Thursday, a deputy thought he saw him enter an unmarked county vehicle, according to the affidavit.

"(The deputy) then advised that someone was stealing the vehicle and then started to follow the stolen county unit and notified dispatch who then notified the Decatur Police Department," the affidavit reads.

After Chenoweth was detained, he allegedly told deputies that the car belonged to him.

His defense attorney, Huntsville lawyer Patrick Arrington, could not be reached for comment. Arrington filed a request for a preliminary hearing on behalf of his client on Monday.

Chenoweth remained in jail this week in lieu of a $20,000 bond for the new charge.

david.gambino@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. @DD_DavidGambino