Two charged in theft from Chesapeake Energy in North Bethlehem
North Strabane Township police Detective John Wybranowski displays the different components in a piece of cable stolen recently from HB Rentals on Johnson Road.
Kathie Warco / Observer-Reporter
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Two Clarksville men face a variety of charges after they were reportedly caught on video surveillance early Tuesday stealing copper wire from the Chesapeake Energy yard in North Bethlehem Township.
State police said it is not the first time Robert Teagarden, 34, and Michael Stitchick, 45, both of 60 C St., allegedly entered the supply yard at 1200 National Pike (Route 40) late Saturday or early Sunday and stole 200 to 300 feet of wire. They are also being questioned in the theft of wire from HB Rentals on Johnson Road, North Strabane Township.
The two men activated surveillance cameras as they were in the process of stealing wire from the site. State police said Chesapeake management had trail cameras installed because of the number of thefts at the property. Similar thefts were reported to state police between April 17 and 19, April 29 and 30 and May 7 and 10.
At 2:44 a.m., one of the cameras transmitted an image of two men carrying rolls of black wire. One of the men was wearing a camouflage jacket with a U.S. Air Force insignia on the sleeve.
When troopers arrived in the area, they found a Nissan Sentra parked in a pull-off area on Brush Run Road near Routes 40 and 519. Inside the car were several small tools used for cutting wire.
State police and several local police departments set up a perimeter.
The two men were found by police lying in heavy brush and taken into custody. They stashed the wire on a path near where the car was parked. The men told police they tried to hide in the woods when they saw flashlights.
Both men reportedly admitted in interviews with Trooper Douglas Rush, who filed the charges, to participating in the thefts.
North Strabane police Detective John Wybranowski said the pair are also being investigated in connection with several similar break-ins at HB Rentals, which supplies trailers to customers, including those in the gas industry. Detective Michael Lukanski talked with the two men Tuesday. Wire was cut from seven trailers April 15, four May 4, five May 5 and six May 12. A theft was also reported Monday, but the report is not yet complete so Wybranowski is uncertain as to how many trailers were targeted.
Cable connecting the trailers to a power supply was cut while the trailers were parked in the HB lot on Johnson.
“A fairly large section of cable would be stolen and the outer layer would be melted,” Wybranowski explained. “They get more money if the outer sheathing is burned off.”
Wybranowski said the company also set up some cameras. The company told police that the wire costs about $4 a foot.
During his arraignment, Teagarden’s voice cracked as he told District Judge Jay Weller that he has had a substance abuse problem since his fiancee died of a heart attack on Thanksgiving Day.
Both men told the judge that they did odd jobs and had no steady employment, Stitchick told Weller that he is on probation in Allegheny County on drug charges, but denied having a substance abuse problem.
Teagarden and Stitchick were arraigned Tuesday afternoon by Weller on charges of two counts each burglary, theft, conspiracy, and criminal mischief and one count of possessing instruments of crime. They were taken to Washington County jail under $10,000 bonds. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 3 before District Judge Curtis Thompson.