Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Do-it-yourself detectives: Couple finds their stolen RV

When Nathan and Katie Dever parked their travel trailer in their business parking lot, they never thought it would go missing. Nor did they probably ever think that they’d turn into do-it-yourself detectives. But both happened, and inside a 24-hour span, they found their stolen RV. Their story may help you develop leads if your own rig is ever purloined.

Security cam—man with a pickup

stolen RV
Security cam footage.

On Monday, July 24, the Devers found their rig had vanished in the night. Their business in Helotes, Texas, had a security camera system and, sure enough, they found images of a man with a pickup truck, hooking up and towing away their rig just a few hours earlier.

If you’re a crook, what do you do when you’ve stolen someone’s RV and you need ready cash? Selling the rig itself could prove a bit tricky, what with VIN numbers, vehicle titles and all. But think about the “loot” inside the rig. The Devers put on the mindset of someone who wanted quick cash, and enlisted the help of friends to eyeball internet “buy and sell” sites serving the area. They reasoned if they could find their stuff for sale, they might find their stolen RV.

Loot marketed on Facebook

It was solid reasoning. One of the Devers’ helpers spotted a folding ladder for sale on a Facebook Marketplace ad. The ladder looked suspiciously similar to one that was in the travel trailer when it was stolen. Interestingly enough, the ladder seller also listed a pickup truck for sale—and it looked like the one from the security cam footage of the trailer theft. The advertisement photo also showed the license plate number on the truck, but police told them the plate was stolen, so identifying the truck owner and address was impossible from that angle. Nevertheless, the Facebook posting did give an approximate location on the southwest side of San Antonio.

stolen RV
Found in the driveway

Included in the batch of photos the “seller” posted on Facebook was a house number. Nathan and Katies’ friends “saddled up” and headed to the area. It didn’t take them long to locate the address—and they found the stolen RV, parked in a driveway. At this point, the do-it-yourself detectives turned the case over to the professionals—the San Antonio Police Department.

“Offer Up” excuse doesn’t wash

When the police rolled up, they found a man walking around outside the home. The man, Joseph Whitaker, 43, admitted that he had moved the travel trailer. His explanation was simple—and as transparent as mud. Whitaker says he’d just bought the trailer from another internet sales site, “Offer Up.” But picking up something you bought at 3:30 in the morning, nicely recorded on the real owner’s security system, didn’t exactly convince police of Whitaker’s innocence.

If convicted of the charges, theft between $2,500 to $30,000, Whitaker could have up to two years to learn to spin a better story, while he sits it out in a state prison.

Be careful if you find your own stolen RV

Meantime, here’s another take on the story of the couple that found their stolen RV. Contact the police. Do some “leg work” to see if you can track down the bad guys. But DON’T confront someone you suspect of ripping off your ride. A San Antonio police officer commented to local news media, referencing folks who try to “retrieve their own items,” that kind of action can lead to trouble. “Accidents happen. They get shot. They get stabbed. It’s just, it’s not safe.”

All images KSAT.COM, source of the original story. 


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


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Butch Allison
1 month ago

We have an Apple Air Tag hidden in ours….hopefully will never have to use it.

1 month ago
Reply to  Butch Allison

i want to do this also. has it been working good? how often do you have to change the batteries?

Sally Harnish
1 month ago

I believe I detect a smile on LEO’s face!

1 month ago

Back in the early 80’s I had a dirt bike stolen. I went to the local locksmith, gave him the key number which was also embossed on the ignition switch. He pulled the switch out from under the counter and said some kid brought it in about an hour before. I called the cops who were completely disinterested and because it was a weekend, said the detectives would take a look on Monday.
I got my bike back, but it had been stripped down and it cost me a couple hundred to get it right. Cops wouldn’t give me the name of the thief, said he had been “encouraged” to join the Marines. I was a young guy then myself and let it go. If this happened today it would a different outcome

Bob M
1 month ago
Reply to  Billinois

Back in the old day the judge gave you a choice. Go in the military or go to jail.

Roger V
1 month ago

Put a few Apple Airtags in your RVs! They were recently on sale $87 for 4. Even at the full price of $99, it’s cheap insurance. Yes, they work off short range Bluetooth pickups but there are millions of folks out there with phones likely to pass by your rig. Mine work great, and they’re well hidden. Also easy to disconnect the speakers to make it harder for the thief to find them. Just do a Youtube search for instructions.
Better yet, look up satellite trackers like WhereSafe. There’s a subscription fee, but these allow full time tracking and geofencing so you’ll be alerted if and when the vehicle moves outside your custom fence.
Either is better than what these folks had to do.

1 month ago

They definitely got lucky. As a former police investigator, I would have done exactly what they did. The funny thing is, if that dude really “bought it on Offer up” there would be a record of the sale and interactions between buyer and seller. He got caught with online ad listing service but wasn’t sharp enough to realize it would be a bad idea to use it as a defense.

Dumb criminal.

Best bet is to use prevention tools – park in a truly secure area, locks (tongue or pin lock, wheel lock), remove or disconnect batteries, personalize the exterior of your rig (decals or stickers that are hard to remove but easy to spot for identification purposes)

1 month ago

Apple air tag, or other tracking system is your friend. Small solar-powered and battery backup for power.

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