Man arrested after police say more than $100,000 stolen from dead man's house

Man arrested after police say more than $100,000 stolen from dead man's house

August 25th, 2011 by Kate Harrison Belz in News

Michael Stoker

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

A man accused of clearing out a dead man's home - even stealing his cars and his washing machine - now faces hefty theft charges.

And Chattanooga police say the investigation is still expanding.

But the theft suspect, 22-year-old Michael Stoker, claims the incident developed out of a misunderstanding.

"Yes, I took them. But I didn't steal them; they got it all back as soon as police questioned me," he said Wednesday. Stoker said he was Jimmy Callahan's nephew and that he had been living at Callahan's home for about 10 years.

Stoker said Callahan had talked to him about giving him some of his estate when he died.

"We talked about it, but there was never a formal agreement," Stoker said.

Over the last month, police have recovered more than $100,000 worth of items stolen from the estate of 64-year-old Callahan, who died in June, according to Chattanooga police spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary.

Callahan's son, Kacee Callahan - who is listed as the administrator of his father's estate - told police that his father's house had been virtually cleaned out while his father was in the hospital before his death.

Stocker said he never saw much of Jimmy Callahan's children.

"They were never around until all of this happened," he said.

According to the arrest report and Stoker's own statements, he had originally been charged with theft over $20,000. Weary said that as investigators continue to take inventory of the items, they may upgrade charges.

Stoker was arrested July 27 and released on a $6,000 bond.

Kacee Callahan did not return repeated calls for comment Wednesday. The other four children listed in Jimmy Callahan's obituary could not be reached.

The arrest report does not define Jimmy Callahan and Stoker's relationship, and Weary only confirmed Stoker was listed as a "house guest."

According to his obituary, Jimmy Callahan died June 22. Stoker said he moved everything out a week later.

Kacee Callahan told police a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, a Ford F-350 truck and several high-priced lawn and garden items were among items stolen from the home.

Weary said Stoker was found with about $40,000 worth of the stolen items, and police discovered more items at the home of Stoker's mother and other locations.

"It's unknown exactly what all was taken, which makes the recovery process that much more astounding," said investigator William Puckett. "I'm still processing recovered items. This is a big case."