LINCOLN - The tractor-trailer stolen Aug. 19 from FedEx Freight in Lincoln was recovered last week at a truck stop in a south Chicago suburb, Lincoln detective Sgt. Tom Rowland said Wednesday.
The "huge amount" of Timex watches that had been inside the trailer is still missing, he said.
South Holland police were called to the truck stop just east of Interstate 94 Thursday after a truck driver reported the unmoved semi to service station employees, Rowland said.
The truck driver was surprised to see the same semi parked at the station three days later "because FedEx trucks just don't sit," he said.
Police confirmed the rig's registration matched the one stolen in Lincoln.
"Of course it was empty," Rowland said.
Three thieves, wearing hooded sweat shirts and gloves, were recorded by FedEx security cameras moving trucks and trailers around the Lincoln terminal's shipping yard between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. Aug. 19, a Saturday, so the crime was not discovered by FedEx security until the following Monday.
Rowland previously said the cameras depicted the men using one truck to pull trailers away from the shipping docks so they could examine the contents of at least two other trailers. Eventually the trio drove off in the semi bearing a load of approximately 13 pallets of Timex watches that were destined for a large retail distributor, he said.
"There was a lot," Rowland said of the watches. "It was a huge amount."
Investigators do not suspect the theft was committed by anyone local, "not with the truck being abandoned up there," he said.
The stolen 1999 Volvo tractor and the empty trailer, which have an estimated combined value of between $18,000 and $25,000, did not appear to be damaged, he said.
After Rowland learned of the discovery, Illinois State Police crime scene technicians recovered seven or eight pieces of evidence from the rig. Rowland said he expected to receive that evidence soon and planned to forward it to the state police crime lab in Springfield.
Rowland said after viewing the surveillance videos, he believes the driver of the rig has had plenty of experience behind the wheel of a semi.
"It gave me a better idea that whoever was driving was a (truck) driver," he said. "He had done it before. There was no jockeying or hesitation."
Police also suspect the three thieves likely have an inside connection at FedEx.
Rowland said their crimes probably were facilitated by having keys to the tractors and trailer doors because none of the locks on the trailers or the ignition switches in the tractors were damaged.
FedEx spokeswoman Debra Phillips and local FedEx personnel refused Wednesday to discuss any details of the theft because police still are investigating.