Maxwell Kerkman was arrested over the weekend in connection with the theft of an $80,000 tractor. The tractor, which was stolen from Ferguson Ag near Orchard, was found stripped of parts and inside of a shop belonging to Kerkman's father, according to court records.
Maxwell Kerkman, 29, of Oakdale was arrested Saturday on accessory to a felony. The charge stems from an Aug. 22 theft of a 2017 Wacker Nueson tractor from Ferguson Ag west of Orchard, which is just inside the Holt County line. Authorities located the stolen tractor the following day in a shop owned by John Kerkman three miles south of Oakdale.
As reported earlier by the Antelope County News, court documents indicate texts and Facebook messages obtained by law enforcement provide conversations about finding “a buyer for the loader,” the “trailer is hot” and “If we don’t stick together we all got nothing.” Some of these messages were between Kerkman and Taylor Schwager, who was arrested in Council Bluffs on Sunday night.
Court documents said that on Aug. 22 video surveillance showed a white 2017 Ford F250 Platinum, allegedly owned by Schwager, driving by Ferguson Ag at about 3:35 a.m. The tractor was seen leaving the business followed by the white pickup.
As the search continued the next day for the tractor, Antelope County Sheriff Bob Moore requested an airplane fly over the area. During the air search, authorities saw a pickup leave a shop owned by John Kerkman “very hastily” about three miles south of Oakdale. The pickup was then stopped by authorities, and occupants Maxwell Kerkman and Christopher Palmer, 23, were questioned. Kerkman denied that the tractor was in the shop and said, “I was in there today and I know everything that is there.”
At about the same time as the stop, Brian Ferguson of Ferguson Ag was contacted by an unnamed individual saying he was working near Kerkman’s shop and that the usually open doors were now shut. Ferguson contacted John Kerkman, who later confirmed that the tractor was in his shop.
Related Story: Facebook Messages Help Lead To Schwager's Arrest
When Moore arrived, John Kerkman took the sheriff to the shop. The tractor was inside and had been stripped of its parts. Several tools were near the tractor, along with several removed parts. Court records stated that during questioning, Jacob W. Humphrey of Tilden admitted to taking the tractor to Kerkman’s shop but said he bought the machine at Divots in Norfolk for $5,000. Humphrey’s shoe tracks matched the scene of the theft at Ferguson Ag, and he was arrested within days on possession of stolen property.
Holt County Investigator Steven Binkerd requested cell phone records from Schwager, Humphrey and Kerkman, along with Facebook accounts for Schwager and Kerkman, which led to various text messages about the alleged incident, according to records. The affidavit said nicknames “Crawl” refers to Chris Palmer and “Creep” is Maxwell Kerkman.
In the messages, which were taken directly from the affidavit, Humphrey asked Schwager where to say he “borrowed cash from,” and Schwager told him “U got the cash from doing side mechanic (expletive)” and “U got part of the cash from selling my a washer and dryerfor $1,000. That links you being here.” Humphrey then messaged Kerkman, “I’m gonna tell them i bought it off a dude so dnt saydifferentl.” When asked if Schwager would post Humphrey’s bail, Schwager messaged, “Not me but I’llhave someone for sure I got you. If wedon’t stick together we all got nothing.”
In messages between Kerkman and Humphrey, Kerkman messaged, “I didn’t want anything to do with thisand sure don’t wanna go down for this (expletive) when I had nuthin to do with this.” He later messaged, “Ya but the dude who owned it called my (expletive) dad theywanna look in that she’d like now.”
In messages between Schwager and Humphrey, Schwager sent, “That trailer is hot. Idk where that plate even came from” and “Where was it?” Humphrey responded, “My house. I had it in meadow grove bt crawl brought itback to my house for some reason.”
Humphrey texted Schwager, “Wt if i say some dude rollled up and was trying tosell the works receivong stolen property is better than theft.” Schwager responded, “Yep. And then I still working on my truck and everythingchecks out. And i got your bail and lawyer if it works I guess.”
Law enforcement said they are continuing to investigate other equipment thefts in the area. This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
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