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From toilet paper to tools

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Variety of items taken during burglaries; BCSO makes arrests

By John Barnhart

    This year, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office’s pre-Christmas activities included arresting four suspects on burglary charges.

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    And finding a variety of stolen items.
    A fifth suspect is still at large. According to Sheriff Mike Brown, the five have allegedly committed multiple burglaries in Bedford County since early last fall.
    Investigators got an assist from a homeowner in two arrests. That Huddleston resident returned home on Dec. 18, discovered his residence broken into and found the culprits still there. He confronted three individuals and was able to detain two of them until deputies arrived.
    Amanda Harding, 21, of 1194 Jeffrey Dr., Huddleston, and Michael McDonald, 23, of 1228 Clover Creek Rd., Huddleston, were arrested. They have been charged with five counts of breaking and entering and one count of grand larceny.
    Sheriff’s deputies are still looking for Kean Montgomery, 28, of 3726 Diamond Hill Rd., Moneta. Anyone with information on Montgomery’s whereabouts is urged to call the Sheriff’s Office at (540) 586-7827 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-798-5900.

    A subsequent investigation led to charging the three with five other break-ins in the immediate area and the recovery of some 300 items.
    And there were more arrests.
    A minor collision with the building he was allegedly burglarizing led to the arrest of Brian O. Byers, 32, of 195 Hounds Run, Forest.
    On Oct. 14, the Sheriff’s Office got a report that somebody had broken into the American Legion building in Big Island and stolen $2,500 worth of copper pipe. In the process, the burglar managed to hit the building with his vehicle leaving red paint on the building’s side. The investigation led to Byers. Sheriff’s Office investigators allege he had borrowed a family member’s red Dodge van at the time of the burglary and had mentioned hitting the Legion building with the van. When interviewed on Dec. 22, Byers confessed to breaking into the building and stealing the copper piping.
    He has been charged with breaking and entering and grand larceny. The burglary is still under investigation and additional arrests are possible, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
    Deputies paid a visit to James W. Keith, 29, of 2106 Hardy Rd., Vinton, to serve an arrest warrant charging him with a break-in on Nemmo Road where Keith’s vehicle had been seen. When deputies showed up, Keith fled on foot but didn’t get far before he was apprehended. He allegedly admitted to several other burglaries in the area and has been charged with six counts of breaking and entering and grand larceny. An investigation is still in progress and additional arrests are possible, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
    Brown said that it’s possible that Byers and Keith may have had accomplices. He said that it’s common for burglars who do multiple burglaries to have somebody with them to serve as lookouts or help carry items out.
    “It was a great Christmas present for us and for the people who have been able to claim their property,” Brown commented on the arrests.
    Brown said that efforts are underway to contact people who have had property stolen and this has included talking to law enforcement in surrounding counties to see if any items have come from burglaries in their jurisdictions. This could provide a connection to other burglaries.
    “We are going to do a reverse 911,” Brown said.
    This will involve using the 911 system to contact people in the areas where the burglaries have occurred asking them to contact the Sheriff’s office if they have had a burglary to see if any of the items recovered belong to them. Brown said that this demonstrates the need for the reverse 911 capability and he plans to ask the Board of Supervisors for money to enhance the system.
    The burglars weren’t particular about what they carried off. Some items are the sort of things that you would expect such as power tools, chain saws and heavy-duty line trimmers. Others were items of little value including a package of toilet paper, a package of paper towels and canned pears.
    Regardless of the value of the items stolen, Brown notes that having somebody break into your house is a traumatic event for a homeowner.
    Anyone with information on any of these burglaries is asked to call the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office at (540) 586-7827 or Crime Stoppers at 1-888-798-5900.