Guilty plea in food pantry theft

One of the three men involved in the June theft of thousands of dollars of food from the Gospel Mission Food Pantry pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to 150 days in jail.

Christopher A. Lent, 26, of 328 1/2 Gilman Ave., Marietta, kept his head down and at times struggled to answer questions as he pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of complicity to breaking and entering.

Lent admitted that he had acted as a lookout while others broke into and stole from the food pantry and other businesses inside the Harmar Community Center overnight between June 26 and 27.

“Mr. Lent admitted he was the lookout and he had a walkie talkie. It was his job to warn the people inside the building,” said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Amy Graham.

Marietta residents Eric G. Sciance, 19, of 114 Sunset Drive, and William J. Mitchell, 28, of 516 Smith St., were also indicted as a result of the incident. Both were charged with three fifth-degree felony counts of breaking and entering.

In addition to the food and cash from a donation jar taken from the food pantry, items were taken from The Boys and Girls Club and North American Recycling Inc.

The recycling business planned to request between $14,000 and $16,000 in restitution, said Graham.

Several tools and electronic items were stolen from the business.

Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth said that a restitution figure could be added to the entry later if one could be agreed upon. If the defense and prosecution could not agree on a restitution figure, a hearing could be scheduled for a later date, he said.

Lent stated that he has received food from the food pantry in the past and did not immediately realize that his co-defendants were stealing from the charity.

“At that point I didn’t know it was a pantry until they started bringing out food. Not a day goes by I don’t hate myself,” he said.

Much of the food was located at Lent’s nearby apartment June 28. However, it had been opened and could no longer be used by the pantry.

After the plea, Lent was immediately sentenced on the charge.

Burnworth ordered him to serve three years of community control and sentenced him to 150 days in the Washington County Jail. Lent will receive credit for 38 days served.

He faced a maximum 12-month prison sentence on the charge.

Sciance and Mitchell have not pleaded to the charges against them and are scheduled to go to trial, said Graham.