Copper theft case suspect sentenced

The first of three men charged in the theft of $14,000 in copper piping from Eramet Marietta was sentenced Wednesday to 31 days in the Washington County Jail.

Prosecutors said John L. Wyatt, 56, of 125 Maranatha Circle in Belpre Township, did not participate in the Feb. 4, 2012, theft but two other suspects used a vehicle belonging to his girlfriend to steal the approximately 15,000 pounds of lead-encased copper piping from the Eramet facility on Ohio 7 south of Marietta. The stolen materials were stored in an attached garage at his house and he appeared to have been stripping the material with the other men when Washington County sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant at his residence nearly two weeks after the theft, county Prosecutor Jim Schneider said.

Wyatt pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to a fourth-degree felony charge of receiving stolen property. In exchange, a third-degree felony count of tampering with evidence was dropped, along with a second receiving stolen property charge related to the discovery on his property of a Bobcat hauling trailer reported stolen from Columbus.

Schneider said Wyatt was out of state when the theft occurred but phone records indicate he spoke with one of the other suspects around the time it was occurring.

Wyatt’s attorney, Patrick McFarland, said after Wednesday’s sentencing that his client did not participate in the planning of the theft.

“The fellows had his vehicle while he was in Florida, used it while he was there, took the property to his residence,” he said. “He found out about it later, got caught up in it.”

Wyatt did not speak during the sentencing except to answer “yes, sir” and “no, sir” to Burnworth’s questions.

The judge sentenced Wyatt to the 31-day jail term agreed to in the plea bargain, with credit for one day already served. At Schneider’s request, he began that sentence Wednesday but was to be released this morning and return on April 8.

Schneider said at that point, Wyatt will have refills of prescription medication he needs, sparing the county the expense of providing it while he is in the jail.

Burnworth agreed to the request, but warned Wyatt of the consequences if he did not return on the stated date.

“If you don’t show up on April 8 at 6 p.m., you could be charged with the crime of escape, which would only exacerbate your situation,” he said.

The other two defendants in the case have also pleaded guilty.

Richard L. Nolan, 39, of 4843 15th Ave., Parkersburg, pleaded guilty on Jan. 31 to one fourth-degree felony count of grand theft and a fifth-degree felony count of breaking and entering. His sentencing was scheduled for 8 a.m. today.

Jonathan P. Stringer, 31, of 410 Victoria Ave., Parkersburg, pleaded guilty Feb. 22 to a fourth-degree felony count of receiving stolen property and is set to be sentenced at 8 a.m. April 11.