Conway man charged with DUI after he was stopped driving stolen tractor near I-95

An area man’s arrest for driving under the influence has led Conway police to a stolen John Deere tractor they spent about a month looking for.

S.C. Highway Patrol said a trooper stopped Conway resident Timothy Bessant on the tractor on Oct. 3 – the day it was reported stolen – and charged him with driving under the influence while on the vehicle. It’s unclear where Bessant was going at the time, but it was hard for the trooper to miss him as he traveled on the John Deere near Interstate 95 in the Latta area.

Lance Cpl. Sonny Collins from the highway patrol said the trooper spotted Bessant on S.C. 38 at I-95. Bessant was taken into custody without incident, he said.

“He was literally driving the tractor,” down the interstate about 1:30 a.m., Conway police spokeswoman Catina Hipp said Wednesday of 48-year-old Bessant. The tractor had been held at an impound lot in Florence, but was returned to Conway this week, , Hipp said.

At the time of Bessant’s arrest, the tractor had not been reported stolen, so it was towed to the impound lot, Collins said. Authorities followed a paper trail to locate it.

On Oct. 3, hours after Bessant was charged, the tractor was reported stolen from a job site on New Road in Conway. Workers from the city’s street department, who left the tractor at that site a day earlier, said it was missing when they returned about 7:45 a.m. on Oct. 3. Police followed the theft report with several pleas for information about the whereabouts of the piece of equipment.

But, unbeknownst to Conway officials, the tractor had been at the Florence impound since the theft was reported, and troopers had arrested Bessant, Hipp said.

Bessant has not been charged related to the tractor theft. Conway police are investigating how he came to be in possession of the equipment, Hipp said.

Conway officials had offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the tractor. That reward will not be paid to anyone, Hipp said, because law enforcement officials located it.