WAYNESBURG – The trial of a Fairmont, W.Va., man who is accused of participating in a string of burglaries in Greene County from January through July 2011 will continue today before Greene County Judge Farley Toothman.
James David Shriver, 39, of 1006 Eastwood Drive, was arrested by Marion County sheriff’s deputies after he was implicated in the burglaries by Richard Vanpelt of Fairmont. Vanpelt was pulled over July 7, 2011, in Fairmont, and sheriff’s deputies noted a laptop computer, flat-screen television and other items in the back seat of the vehicle. Vanpelt admitted to police that the items were stolen during a break-in at a residence at 1156 Golden Oaks Road in Greene County and claimed that Shriver was his accomplice.
Police then obtained a search warrant for Shriver’s residence, where they retrieved a Colt Pony .380 handgun that was reported stolen Jan. 6, 2011, from the residence of Greene County District Judge Lee Watson.
Vanpelt later confessed to the break-in at Watson’s residence as well as five others that occurred while he and Shriver were working for a West Virginia excavating company at two job sites in Greene County.
Vanpelt, who is now serving a sentence for a break-in in West Virginia, testified against Shriver Thursday. He previously pleaded guilty to the Greene County burglaries and awaits sentencing. He provided testimony against Shriver in exchange for a recommended sentence of two to 10 years in prison.
Greene County District Attorney Marjorie Fox emphasized that the court does not have to abide by that sentencing recommendation, and Vanpelt acknowledged his awareness that it did not. Both men were charged with multiple counts of burglary, conspiracy to commit burglary, theft by unlawful taking, conspiracy to commit theft by unlawful taking and criminal mischief.
When Defense attorney David Russo questioned Vanpelt on the deal he was offered, Vanpelt told him it didn’t sound like much of a deal to him.
“It is a prison sentence for our wrong. It is two to 10 years,” Vanpelt said.
In court, Vanpelt identified photos of the residences and an outbuilding that he claimed Shriver helped him burglarize. He could not remember exact addresses or the dates of the burglaries but recounted items stolen from each location and where entry was gained. He told the court that he and Shriver would choose homes at random based on the remoteness and lack of a vehicle in the driveway. Vanpelt said they would knock on the doors of the homes and then try to gain entry if no one answered.
Russo pointed out in his opening statements that Vanpelt was responsible for helping Shriver get a job at the excavating company where Vanpelt had worked for approximately five years. Russo said Shriver did not have a driver’s license and he counted on Vanpelt to pick him up each morning for work and to bring him home at the end of the day. Russo said that Shriver became involved in the burglaries after Vanpelt solely committed the first one in what he suggested was Vanpelt’s attempt to create a “patsy” to take the fall in the event he was ever caught. Russo went on to say that his client fell prey to a type of “peer pressure” from Vanpelt who got him the job and transported him.
Russo told the jury Vanpelt allegedly told Shriver he was stopping to visit a friend when Vanpelt entered and burglarized the first home. Russo said this placed Shriver in the position of being an accomplice without his knowledge or agreement to participate in the burglary.
Vanpelt said the burglaries were committed to feed the drug addictions of both him and Shriver. Most of the items that were stolen were traded for crack cocaine, cocaine, pain pills or fentanyl patches, according to Vanpelt. Laptop computers, jewelry, guns, cameras and other items of value were among the things stolen from the homes in Franklin, Dunkard, Aleppo, Freeport, Monongahela and Jackson townships. Items that were not traded for drugs were sold for money to buy drugs, Vanpelt said.
Addressing the victims of the burglaries seated in the courtroom gallery, Vanpelt said, “I’m sorry that we did it. I wish I could take it back.”