Feud over stolen MacBook leads to questions about FindMy app

A local man has publicly accused his neighbor of stealing his MacBook, which is worth approximately $3,000 plus the cost of special programs licensed to the computer, after using the FindMy app to track it down to his neighbor’s residence

Taking the law into their own hands due to their shared dissatisfaction with Greater Sudbury police response, two feuding neighbors have caused a bit of a stir in New Sudbury.

In response to perceived inaction by city police in retrieving his stolen MacBook, Bill McElree posted a lengthy rundown of his grievances to Facebook.

The accused also took matters into his own hands, by enlisting a friend to threaten McElree during a confrontation. This, he said, was done after police declined to show up despite his placing three phone calls.

In a video posted to Facebook by McElree, the friend is heard telling McElree to “get the f*** out of here or you’re going to get your head kicked in.”

The feud spurred police to issue a media release earlier this week, in which they clarify there is insufficient evidence to apply for a search warrant of the apartment of the accused.

Sudbury.com is not naming the accused because no charges have been laid against him.

The incident dates back to Nov. 2, when McElree was looking for his 2021 MacBook Pro computer. He used a FindMy feature, which is intended to help people find their devices by showing where it is on a map. It also allows people to sound an alarm on their device.

The map showed the device to be at his neighbour’s basement apartment at approximately 11:41 pm While walking around the property, McElree said he could pinpoint it to within a few meters.

“There was no other place it could be because there was no other house nearby,” he said, adding there was only one basement apartment and nobody in the business upstairs.

He phoned Greater Sudbury police, who told him to report the theft online and that someone would get back to him in a few days.

“I told her I could literally see it online and knew the location, but she insisted I report it online,” McElree said.

While outside of his neighbour’s apartment, McElree sounded an alarm on his MacBook, which he said he heard go off within the apartment, further proving the MacBook’s location.

“I even sent a message (to the MacBook) with my address and that this laptop was my livelihood,” he said. “It’s a terabyte, I have about 40 gigs left on it, most of which is backed up, but not all of it. … I then locked the laptop, rendering it useless.”

McElree knocked on his neighbour’s door until he answered, and told him about the MacBook’s location according to the FindMy feature. The neighbor said he did not have it.

The neighbor phoned police, who came and questioned both men before departing.

There were two additional encounters after that time, including McElree’s son and a friend knocking on the neighbor’s door to demand the MacBook, after which the neighbor followed their vehicle and was reported to police for doing so.

The next incident, on Nov. 6, saw McElree return to his neighbour’s door to request the MacBook. Afterward, he sat in his vehicle, where the neighbour’s friend threatened him.

In conversation with Sudbury.com, McElree described the situation as incredibly frustrating. He said he knew exactly where his stolen MacBook was, had evidence of where it was, and yet police did not retrieve it.

This, he said, is why he posted about the incident to Facebook.

“It’s mind-boggling,” he said. “I’m also slightly embarrassed to have to do this. … I am not a victim, I’m not just going to curl up.”

The neighbor accused of theft also spoke to Sudbury.com, and said, “100 per cent, I didn’t take his laptop.”

“I’m not going to say Bill is lying, I just think he’s mistaken,” he said. “He obviously does believe it.”

The neighbor does not have Facebook, but was provided the information McElree has been posting online and was eager to clear up his side of the story.

Although McElree said he heard the MacBook ping in his apartment, the neighbor said he must have heard what he wanted to hear, or that it might have been in the vicinity of his apartment.

“I feel bad for the guy,” he said. “It’s not the $3,000 laptop … there’s got to be something important to him on that. … I’d like to help him, but I don’t know who took it.”

The neighbor said that the police fell short on at least two occasions.

During the initial complaint, police left while McElree was still on his property, and that their argument reignited as soon as police departed.

A subsequent argument a few days later saw McElree partially block his neighbour’s driveway with his vehicle, which the neighbor said scared his girlfriend.

The neighbor phoned police three times and was told they didn’t have anyone available to send out. On the third phone call, the neighbor said he told police he would handle it himself.

“I really thought that would have brought them running, but no, they didn’t come,” the neighbor said. “Too many other calls.”

He phoned a friend, who arrived to yell at McElree and threaten him until he finally left.

“He’s the only one who came to my aid that day,” the neighbor said of his friend. “Over a 45-minute period, police did not show up.”

“I’m glad my buddy came there and threatened Bill,” he later added. “That’s what it takes. … My buddy did what he had to do, and I’ll stand by that.”

In response to the story of feuding neighbors and McElree’s side of the story being posted to Facebook, where it offered a scathing indictment of police inaction, Greater Sudbury police issued a media release this week about the incident.

“The FindMy app provides a radius, as confirmed by Apple, and not a pinpoint location,” they wrote. “The radius provided at the time of the incident encompassed a number of residences in the area, including an apartment building with multiple units.”

Police also noted that the evidentiary threshold required to lawfully enter and search a residence was not met in this case.

Despite this, the accused said he insisted they search his place during their investigation. When he saw they weren’t opening doors and “really looking,” he said he started opening things up for them and showing police around his apartment.

No video surveillance footage was located to aid in the investigation.

“The investigation into the theft of the laptop is ongoing as the laptop has yet to be recovered.”

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com