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Thieves steal '67 Pontiac days before mechanic completes restoration

Posted at 1:05 PM, Nov 23, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- Thieves broke into a retired west side mechanic's shop Tuesday, stealing thousands of dollars' worth of tools and a 1967 Pontiac GTO he was restoring.

The break-in happened sometime Tuesday morning before 10:00 a.m., when Tom Culbertson found someone had broken into his shop on the 1800 block of South Lynhurst Drive.

Culbertson said he believes the thieves were looking for metal they could easily sell for scrap.

In addition to what they could carry off, the thieves took a 1967 Pontiac GTO Culbertson has been restoring for a client named Tracie Beckwith, a former Indianapolis resident who lives in St. Louis now.

"My shop's not really a business anymore," Culbertson said, "but cars are what I love doing."

Beckwith says her father gave her the car in 2002 as a graduation present.

"I was the first of my dad's kids to graduate from college," Beckwith said.

She says she's been working on restoring the car for the past seven years, but hadn't made much progress until she found Culbertson.

"I finally found the Culbertsons and they put it all back together for me," she said. "They're fabulous. And I was going to pick it up on Friday."

Beckwith said she was devastated when she got the call that the car had been stolen.

"My stomach immediately just flipped," she said – adding that she hasn't told her father the news yet. She's hoping the thieves will have a change of heart and bring the Pontiac back.

"Just give me the car back," she said. "That's what I care most about. I'm not worried about prosecuting and whatever."

Culbertson, 72, says his part of the city has a big drug problem, and he thinks addicts are behind the theft.

"The car is probably sitting in a garage in the neighborhood somewhere while they figure out what to do with it," he said.

(He may be right – the southwest portion of the city his shop sits in was the target of dozens of FBI & IMPD raids last week as part of the "Operation Glass Houses" meth ring bust.)

Beckwith is offering a $3,000 reward for information that leads to the return of the car and the arrest of the thief who stole it. If you have any information about the theft, contact IMPD reference case number PD16-140709 or call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-TIPS.