DE QUEEN, Ark. - The guitar-shaped bulge in Morgan Conatser's clothing tipped off a music store owner that there might be a crime in progress. Clifton Lovell, owner of Guitars and Cadillacs on U.S. Highway 71 in De Queen, was talking with a customer last week when he saw Conatser, 29, walking out of the store.
"I saw him walking out to his pickup truck and the bulges in his leather jacket. I said, 'Hey what have you got there,'" Clifton Lovell said.
He said Conatser, 29, replied, "Nothing."
Lovell pointed toward the unnatural shapes in Conatser's jacket and pants and said, "You've got something."
Conatser then removed a solid body electric guitar from his pants leg and from underneath his jacket.
"The neck of the guitar was almost down to his knee and the back of the guitar was almost up to his neck. It wasn't hard to spot. There was no way he could sit down or get into the pickup," Lovell said.
With the guitar back in the store, Lovell didn't intend to call the sheriff's office. But then he discovered a wireless sound system was missing. Lovell called the Sevier County Sheriff's Department and gave a description of Conatser and his pickup.
Deputy Jeff Wahls called Conatser's father, who told Wahls how to find the house.
The deputy found Conatser at home, where Conatser went to his bedroom closet and retrieved the sound system, Wahls said.
"He made a statement saying he needed the property because he needed to make ends meet," Wahls said.
Conatser was arrested on a charge of theft of property under $500 for the sound equipment because the guitar had already been returned to the shop owner. The sound system was worth about $200.
"This is a new one on me and I couldn't believe he tried," Lovell said. "The strings were pressed down and he didn't make any noise."
Conatser was issued a misdemeanor citation and released. Conatser can resolve the charge by paying a fine or he can contest the charge in Sevier County District Court.