Army Deserters Nabbed After Crime Spree

SPOKANE VALLEY — A pair of Army deserters from Ft. Lewis have been living a life of crime on the streets of Spokane Valley for the last two months until detectives caught up with them on Tuesday.

Army deserters Michael Grenkavich, 21, and Mitchell Rea, 22, reportedly deserted from Ft. Lewis within days of each other back in July and have been living a transient lifestyle in the Spokane area.

Detectives were assigned to a rash of property crimes that have been taking place in the Spokane area since mid-July that have been linked to Grenkavich.

On July 12th two people – one of them allegedly Grenkavich – burglarized a home and stole jewelry and sports memorabilia that was later recovered from a pawn shop. Two days later Grenkavich rented three generators valued at $1,700 a piece and a $700 power washer from A to Z Rentals. All three items were pawned later that day.

Authorities say that one month later Grenkavich went to another rental business – United Rental – and rented and then pawned a $1,600 generator.

The thefts continued over the next several weeks and included a dash and grab at a Blockbuster store where a person stole a $499 PlayStation 3 on September 9th and a grab and dash of two $490 flat-screen televisions at a Costco on September 18th.

In both cases the stolen loot was pawned the same day.

Grenkavich is also under investigation for allegedly getting a driver’s license in his brother’s name and then draining his brother’s checking account and opening fraudulent credit accounts in his name. He also attempted to pass a forged check at a Global Credit Union branch on August 1st and there are numerous reports of check forgeries allegedly perpetrated by Grenkavich from over the summer.

Grenkavich was booked into the Spokane County Jail on Tuesday on felony charges of Second Degree Identity Theft, First Degree Theft, Forgery, Theft of Rental Property and First Degree Trafficking Stolen Property.

Rea was also booked into the jail for Second Degree Theft, two counts of First Degree Trafficking Stolen Property, and Second Degree Theft of a Credit Card.

Rea and Grenkavich got back from Iraq about a year ago.  They say they’ve suffered from post traumatic stress to drug addiction and now criminal charges.

“I wanted to serve my country,” Grenkavich says.

Grenkavich and Rea both knew very young that they wanted to be soldiers.

“Isn’t it every kid’s dream?  Every boy’s dream to serve their country?” Rea asks.

And for a couple years, they did.  They served together for 15 months in Iraq as part of the 3rd Striker Brigade from Fort Lewis.

“It’s rough.  It’s 15 months away from family and friends” says Grenkavich.  “It’s not easy.  It’s horrible you don’t see the greatest things.”

“I would sit in a house for three days and watch this guy play with his kids, cook dinner,” Rea says.  “It gets personal when you watch a guy through a scope for three days, then he decides to go out on the road and dig a hole and it’s my job to shoot him after watching him for three days, and then losing friends.”

Once the two came home, their battle became internal. 

“My heart was constantly pounding,” says Grenkavich.  “I didnt feel safe most of the time.  I tried talking to people about it and it just wasn’t working, you know?”

“It’s always like, suck it up and it will get better,” Rea says, “but it’s like, when have you sucked it up enough?”

They turned to drugs.

“I started using drugs, Oxycontin, and that helped a lot,” says Grenkavich.

“I could sleep when I was on it,” Rea says.  “The feeling of nervousness wasn’t there anymore.”

About ten months after returning from Iraq, they deserted.

“I was so fed up and pissed off that I just left one day and after being gone for about a week” says Rea, “and seeing what civilian life was like, I just didn’t want to go back.”

Shortly after, the crime spree began.  Spokane Valley police say Grenkavich and Rea teamed up and stole two TVs from Costco and a Playstation from Blockbuster Video.  Grenkavich is also accused of identity theft, forging checks and pawning thousands of dollars worth of rental equipment,

“I was desperate for money,” Grenkavich says.  “If I wasn’t high, I wasn’t feeling good.”

Grenkavich faces five felonies, Rea faces four, and all they want is to get better.

“There is a solution out there,” Rea says.  “I wish they would find it.”

“I want help, mainly.  I want help,” says Grenkavich.

Because of their AWOL status, Fort Lewis says they are ineligible for military benefits unless they return to the Army and complete their obligation. 

In addition to the charges the duo face from local authorities it is likely they will face additional charges from the Army for desertion.