Vandals tear through 40 classrooms in Burgettstown and cause more than $50,000 in damages
BURGETTSTOWN - A former student remains behind bars on $250,000 bond and two juvenile students are facing charges after doing serious damage throughout much of Burgettstown High School during back-to-back burglary sprees in the early morning hours of Thursday and Friday.
Ronald Fay Boyer, 19, of 66 Baby Hollow Road, Burgettstown, was arraigned early Tuesday before District Judge Gary Havelka on 100 counts of criminal mischief, 38 counts of receiving stolen property, two counts each of burglary, criminal trespass, theft and corruption of minors, court documents indicate. A 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, who were not identified but are students at the high school, were charged as juveniles and released to their parents.
“When you hear that the school was destroyed or vandalized, most people think it was just a little bit of glass, maybe a broken window here or there, but when you hit close to 40 classrooms and destroy 25 monitors… it’s just sheer disrespect for the entire school,” said Principal David Palmer.
According to the affidavit filed by Smith Township police, the trio, who were wearing masks, entered the school early Thursday by smashing out a rear cafeteria window with a hatchet. A letter dated Friday from Superintendent Deborah Jackson to the school board, given to the Observer-Reporter by a board member, explained that in the cafeteria the burglars pried open two cash registers and knocked the monitors for the registers to the floor.
Courts documents state Boyer and the juveniles then used a crowbar to gain access to the administrative offices. Once inside, Boyer smashed Assistant Principal Michael Wright’s computer, dumped mouthwash on the floor and burned his school identification card. The group then entered the lobby, destroyed several display cases, damaging numerous trophies and stealing about 60 class rings before fleeing through the broken cafeteria window.
Palmer said some of the rings date back to the 1930s, and were donated or lent to the school by alumni. While some of the more recent WPIAL trophies can be replaced, he said school officials will have to attempt to repair the older ones that were damaged.
On Friday, Boyer and the juveniles returned to the scene of the crime by removing a board covering the broken window and caused “extensive physical damage,” which court document stated is in excess of $50,000.
“I’m sure once that insurance adjuster gets here and figures out how much it actually is that number is probably going to be pretty staggering,” Palmer said.
Palmer said the trio spent about an hour and a half destroying the school on Friday – even stopping at one point to shoot hoops in a gymnasium.
He said the teens tore through about 40 classrooms, as they smashed an entire computer lab full of equipment, several televisions, electric hallway clocks, a Promethean board, several vending machines, an oven, a microwave and tried to push a spotlight over the auditorium balcony. Numerous framed class photos and 38 pictures from UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh were destroyed. On Tuesday, bits of glass were scattered throughout some hallways and classrooms even after employees had been hard at work cleaning up the mess.
In the end, it was the burglars’ actions, mannerisms and knowledge about certain areas of the school caught on school surveillance cameras that allowed the administration to work with police to identify the juveniles and ultimately Boyer.
For instance, Palmer said only certain students would have known about the precise location of a reciprocating saw, which stolen from a technology education workshop and used to cut through the vault door in the administration office. Once inside the vault, the burglars were unable to open the floor safe.
Additionally, Palmer said the burglars entered only one classroom on the second floor, stealing a Nintendo Wii video game system.
Another Burgettstown teen, who Palmer identified as Boyer’s cousin, was also jailed.
Mark William Shriver, 18, was arraigned Tuesday before Havelka and jailed on $20,000 bond for providing false information to law enforcement, court documents indicate.
According to the affidavit, Smith Township police came to a home at 1530 Main St. on Tuesday evening looking for Boyer. Shriver told police he had not seen him, but was with him earlier in the day. He was taken to the station for further questioning. After Boyer was apprehended by McDonald police, Shriver told Smith Township police that Boyer was in the house when the officer came to look for him earlier.
Palmer commended police for their hard work and the local media for informing the public.
Preliminary hearings for Shriver and Boyer are scheduled before Havelka at 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. July 10.