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Out of tune: Suspected serial guitar thief arrested

The man in black stood on a starkly lit stage in front of a cheering crowd with a guitar slung over his back. As he and his band broke into the rousing gospel number "I Saw the Light," he swung the dark guitar around and began strumming.

The black guitar that Johnny Cash used in that scene shot for a TV detective show was a Martin D35, specially made for him back in the 1970s. According to police, a man stole a $5,000 replica of that famous instrument from a Tennessee music store as well as several others before his arrest on theft charges.

Law enforcement officials said the suspect has been extradited back to Tennessee after his arrest in Arkansas. Nashville police say the 35-year-old swiped more than $14,000 worth of musical instruments from businesses there last year.

Authorities say the suspect rented the Johnny Cash guitar back in September but did not return it.

Cash apparently ordered a custom-made acoustic black guitar from the famed instrument-maker back in 1974 to use in an episode of "Columbo." The country music icon appeared in the role of a murdering gospel singer in the popular detective series.

In addition to allegedly stealing the Cash model Martin, the suspect is accused of swiping three guitars from another Nashville music shop in October of last year. He reportedly rented those instruments and then failed to return them as well.

He is also suspected of breaking into a recording studio that month and stealing musical instruments and other items.

He was stopped in a stolen vehicle that contained several guitars in Van Buren, Arkansas (about 300 miles west of Memphis).

Those who are facing similar theft allegations should decline to speak to a prosecutor until discussing the evidence and charges with a Memphis criminal defense attorney.

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