Bret D. Schoepke, 27, Appleton, is charged in Waupaca County Circuit court with operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent.
At 2:15 a.m. Friday, Jan. 10, New London Police Officer Earl Ruckdashel met with an employee of Festival Foods.
The employee had left his keys in the ignition and the car door unlocked. When he went outside to collect shopping carts, he noticed that his 1997 Chevy Lumina was missing.
The employee told Ruckdashel that he remembered seeing an intoxicated man enter the store, wander around, then leave without buying anything.
Ruckdashel put out an alert to surrounding counties regarding the stolen vehicle.
About 45 minutes later, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office contacted Ruckdashel and reported finding the stolen car in a ditch. They had a suspect, identified as Schoepke, in custody.
Earlier, a Winnebago County deputy found Schoepke outside a Kwik Trip. Schoepke told the deputy that he was cold and needed some place to warm up, according to the criminal complaint. Schoepke reportedly said he drove his car into a ditch, but could not remember where.
A short time later, a delivery man flagged the deputy down and reported seeing the car in a ditch on County Road II.