An Everglades City man was arrested Tuesday, after Collier County deputies say he stole a gun and fishing gear worth almost $9,000. Mitchell Blankenship, 25, faces charges including grand theft and burglary while armed. Witnesses led deputies to a house where they found the stolen loot, and Blankenship hiding in a closet.
According to a report from the Sheriff's Office, a man who was spending the night at a friend's house on Mamie Street in Chokoloskee at around about 3 a.m. Tuesday couldn't sleep. When he went to the back porch for a smoke, he saw someone in a white hoodie by the shed. By the time he and his friend got outside, the suspicious person was gone - along with about 30 fishing poles and a Winchester shotgun from the shed.
Later in the day, one of the victims told deputies that a friend of his who works at the Marathon station in Everglades City got a text message from a man living at a house on Smallwood Drive in Chokoloskee, which read in part: "Little Mitch stole a bunch of stuff, shotguns and fishing poles, and there (sic) all in my room."
When deputies went to the home, they found the stolen fishing rods and the shotgun. They also found Mithcell "Little Mitch" Blankenship hiding in a closet.
One neighbor who asked to remain anonymous told Fox 4 that fishing gear getting stolen is not uncommon in /Chokoloskee area.
"It's been a pretty regular occurrence that's taken place down here, and in Everglades City, for quite a while," he said. "Somebody will see something, and then it's gone."
Blankenship has a number of arrests going back to 2011, with charges including burglary and drug possession.