Michigan Woman Steals Horse-And-Buggy While Family Shops In Wal-Mart

Following last week’s story of a knife-wielding Michigan man threatening Amish, another strange incident out of the Wolverine State. It turns out parked Amish buggies (and their horses) are targets for thieves – at least for one individual in Sturgis (St. Joseph County). From The Sturgis Journal:

STURGIS — An Amish horse and buggy was recovered shortly after being reported stolen from the Sturgis Walmart parking lot Saturday.

The Sturgis Department of Public Safety was dispatched at approximately 5:30 p.m. to Walmart at 1500 S. Centerville Road on a report of a stolen Amish horse and buggy.

According to the report, the victims had gone into Walmart to shop. A truck driver parked nearby said he saw a woman take the horse and buggy from the parking lot. Police later in the evening located the horse and wagon parked in the 1200 block of East Chicago Road, and made contact with the suspect at a local motel.

The 31-year-old woman, whom police reported having contact with earlier in the day, was arrested without incident and lodged at the St. Joseph County Jail. Her name was not immediately released, pending arraignment on charges of larceny and larceny of livestock.

For the record this is what the buggy parking looks like outside of the Wal-Mart in Millersburg, Ohio:

Wal-Mart buggy parking. Photo: Don Burke

It’s common for businesses in areas with significant Amish populations to have buggy-hitching and parking areas. The horse is tied up in a manner like that shown in the photo above. Sometimes horses can untie themselves. In fact, if not for the witness, I imagine this family would have assumed that’s what happened (as it did in one well-publicized case last year in New York).

Photo: Don Burke

But it’s not like you lock your horse up. Even though an Amish buggy can cost upwards of $10,000, and horses thousands more. I’m not sure what the black market resale opportunities are like for Amish horses, much less their buggies.

Sturgis Police media release about the incident. Via Sturgis Department of Public Safety Facebook page

So who knows what the plan was here. Unlike stealing a car, your range and getaway speed are pretty limited. As noted, the police had had contact with the woman earlier in the day. I’m going to guess substances were probably involved here, because none of it makes much sense otherwise. The buggy and horse were returned uninjured to the family, who weren’t looking for a story like this to tell, but at least have one now.

Image: Don Burke

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    1. Emily Johnson

      That's chutzpah!

      I can’t imagine stealing a horse and buggy–apart from the ethical reasons not to, I would have no confidence in my ability to *drive* a horse/buggy, and I imagine most non-Amish folks would think similarly. What audacity!

    2. Joe Donnermeyer

      Not surprised

      If one reads various Amish periodicals, like The Budget, The Diary or Die Botschaft, one will find occasional reports from scribes in a number of communities, where an Amish individuals or family was the victim of a crime. It seems the most common is breaking and entering into a home, looking for cash, or the theft from a shed where tools and machinery for the farm or a non-farm business is located. The theft of a horse and buggy from Walmart is very unique. I wonder if the police chase was any faster than 5 MPH :-).

      1. Erik Wesner

        Joe, as someone who has his finger on the pulse, so to speak, of crime against Amish, is this a new one for you? Sounds like it. Maybe an Amish tractor has been taken before – or livestock – but a full package horse-and-buggy?

    3. Frank Comstock

      Stolen Buggy

      Hah! I wrote this same idea into one of my novels years ago. A beloved elderly citizen with dementia had traveled by horse and buggy as a young girl and young woman in the 1920s and 1930s and when she saw a horse and buggy on the street around 2001, she had a flash back and decided, with no malice, to go for a ride. All ended well in my book, though, because she pulled into the street directly in front a deputy who knew about her unfortunate issue and was able to stop her quickly.

      Glad this ended with no damage to the buggy or injury to the horse.

      1. Erik Wesner

        Wow, well didn’t think of that but sounds feasible. The person in this case is probably too young for dementia though. I also wonder how much horse knowledge she had, seems like she’d need to know something to manage to drive off with it.

    4. Rod

      Case of the Stolen horseshoes.

      I had the shoes stolen off a newly purchased horse at an Amish auction.
      My story is strange as well. Many times the Amish will bring a nice looking horse to auction that has what they term, “a sticky starter”. In this case it was a gelding, and that’s important, because a mare that won’t go forward on command, can still hold value as a brood mare to raise offspring. The only other bidder on this horse was the kill buyer, so the purchase price to me was only $200. The seller was none too happy, but this horse had a horrible reputation and everyone in the barn knew that no whip on earth was going to get this horse moving.
      He was the only horse I bought that day. I paid for him, and when I went to load him into the trailer, he was barefoot with the holes showing where the shoes were. I suspected the seller was so cheap, and dissatisfied with the sale price, he had taken the horses shoes off. Yet when I asked him about it, he not only swore he did not do it, but walked with me back to where the horses were kept, to see for himself! Yep they were gone. Since I was one of the few English men there, we suspected an Amish man needed shoes to get home, but of course we didn’t know.
      Perhaps someone didn’t realize I needed the shoes, for re-training, thinking I was going to send him off for glue. Either way, they weren’t free for the taking! I was pretty worked up about it, because they were just put on, and it would take weeks for his hooves to grow out, so I could clip off the ugly mess that was left when someone stole his shoes. The auctioneer got on the microphone, and said there is an English fellow here that would like his horse shoes back, but nobody came forward. Who in the hell steals the shoes off a horse?
      So I trailered him home, put him out to pasture after a good de-worming and after implementing a combination of nutrients and daily dewormer, he started acting full of energy and had gained a couple of pounds. So it took about a week before we started to see his coat shining and the yellow tint leave his eyes. Then we do the basic round pen work with no whip, and get them ready to saddle. He did really well and we bonded by going for long walks down in the ditch, next to the road. After awhile I did trim his hooves, and then one day, I just made my way up onto the saddle and he walked around wondering why on earth someone was up there of all places. He never once once did anything about it, just continued to learn and we had a real good relationship. I floated his teeth, and watched him get fairly fat. That’s the story of Barefoot Bob, he is one of the best saddle horses to come through my place.

      1. Central Virginian

        Lovely Account

        Thanks for sharing the story.

    5. Central Virginian


      Would be really interesting to find out why the thief took the horse and buggy, whether they had a nefarious criminal plan of some kind, or acted under some sort of a mental crisis. A horse and buggy in Amish country might be an effective disguise for a perpetrator fleeing the scene of a robbery or other crime.

    6. Horse Manure

      I’m not too sure any Amish near Sturgis, MI, would want the horse & buggy suspect around their barn, but I’m thinking that a local judge could get creative and personalize her punishment (if convicted) to fit her crime. Could she clean out horse stalls at a local 4-H fair or for a non-profit horse riding program for children? Clean up the streets after Amish horses? Learn to care for horses through close contact? “Your sentence is 40 hours of community service to the horses in our community,” the judge could declare to the convicted thief.

      1. Erik Wesner

        I’m a fan of these creative outcomes 🙂

      2. Phil

        Great Idea !

        That is a great idea ,especially since one of the states biggest county fairs is in the same county & just up the road a very few miles. It has a very large amount of farm animals & if I am not mistaken, the county jail is right next to the fairgrounds !

    7. Craziness!

      That poor family, I’m sure that’s the last thing they expected after checking out and heading to the parking lot! I could see kids or young people possibly doing it as a joke or prank, but I agree it sounds like substances or alcohol was involved here. It’s a funny story on the surface, but man, the state of the person who did it and the worry and inconvenience of the family. Thank goodness for the truck driver! What he must have been thinking, lol!