Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Winchendon man arrested following reports of suspicious activity involving pouring water in vehicles’ fuel tanks

The Nov. 14 incident at the Southampton Big Y was not the first offense
Collegian File Photo

Southampton Police arrested a Winchendon man at his residence Monday afternoon, Nov. 15, following reports of suspicious activity in the Big Y parking lot in Southampton.

At around 4:23 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14, witnesses reported a person “putting something inside a parked vehicle’s fuel tank,” according to a Southampton Police Department press release.

According to a Southampton Police Department statement of facts, one witness approached the individual and asked what he was doing, to which he responded he was “putting dry gas into his friend’s vehicle.” The witness also observed liquid on the ground beneath the vehicle, as well as around the fueling port. By the time police arrived to the scene, the individual was no longer present, but witness reports lead investigators to identify Alexander Yee, 37, as the person of interest.

The owner of the affected vehicle reported that the vehicle’s light came on and the vehicle began running “rough” shortly following the incident, per the statement of facts.

At around 4:45 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 15, Yee was arrested by Southampton Police with the assistance of Winchendon Police, and has been charged with MGL Chapter 266 Section 18; Breaking and Entering into a Motor Vehicle, and MGL Chapter 266 Section 28; Malicious Destruction to a Motor Vehicle.

Yee told investigating officers that he had parked in the Big Y parking lot “awaiting an opportunity.” After seeing a female operator exit her vehicle and enter the grocery store, he drove up next to the vehicle and poured half a bottle of water into the gas tank.

Yee described himself as having a “car cranking fetish,” noting “the cranking part turns me on kinda.” He described how female drivers attract him to the “fetish” component and admitted that Sunday’s incident was not the first time he had committed the offense.

“There is a correlation to perhaps some concerns of potential sex offenses,” said Chief Ian Illingsworth of the Southampton Police Department. “We’re collaborating right now with other agencies in efforts to seek a common thread between all of the reports. But there appears to be a sexual component involved.”

Yee is suspected of committing similar acts in Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties, as well as southern New Hampshire.

Hadley Lieutenant of Operations Mitchell Kuc urges anyone with reason to believe their vehicle’s fuel tank has been tampered with to contact the police department of the jurisdiction in which the incident took place.

“There are quite a few police departments that are involved with this,” Kuc said. “If anyone has had this happen… and if they [know] the date, when it happened and where it happened, then they should call the police department within that jurisdiction so that they can report it. For instance, if they were at Target or Walmart… and if their car broke down after they left Hadley, then they should give us a call.”

Amherst Police Department did not have a statement.

College Street Motors in Amherst reported as many as six vehicles needing repairs over the past month due to having water in their fuel tanks, though they were unsure if the incidents were related.

Gil Rivas, the owner of Gil’s Auto Repair & Performance, Inc. in Amherst, said that while he has not had any clients come in with this issue, his wife noticed that her car’s gas tank had been tampered with after returning to her car after shopping at Walmart in the Mountain Farms Mall in Hadley Monday afternoon around 2:00 p.m.

“She noticed her tank was opened, and I looked at it and noticed there’s a scratch [on the outside of the fuel tank],” Rivas said. “She definitely remembers closing it. So we’ll have to wait until we can get the gas down low enough so we can see if there’s going to be an issue with the car.”

Daniel Hayes of E.S.P. Auto, Inc. in Easthampton said that while he hasn’t had any clients come in with water in their vehicles’ fuel tanks, E.S.P. Auto, Inc. staff were fully aware of the reports.

“Some of my employees have daughters who are now driving, so it is a scary thing. Having two daughters myself, we always talk about what you do in emergency situations.” Hayes said. “What that person was doing is especially scary because you get in your car and you wouldn’t expect that [to happen]. You may be aware of your surroundings getting into your car, and you think you’re safe so you lock up, then you start driving along and you break down – you’re not anticipating that someone has planned that… [and now] you’re stranded on the side of the road.”

While Hayes doesn’t think such incidents occur particularly often, he still encourages people to always be vigilant about such matters.

“Many cars come equipped with gas doors that are locked where you have to unlock it from inside the car, and there are locking gas caps,” Hayes said. “It does seem like this is an anomaly, like this is very unusual, but I certainly think that being vigilant is important. It is a scary thing, especially for young women, [so] I think as a community just being aware and constantly observant is important.”

“I’m really happy that people were observant and saw what happened and reported what happened, and I think that as a community that’s what we really have to do all the time and just be vigilant about everything, in addition to being kind to each other,” Hayes said.

McKenna Premus can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mckenna_premus.

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