[UPDATE] 2-7 Noon --
An investigation into the theft of copper wire led Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office detectives to clear 26 burglary cases in the eastern section of Wakulla County, mostly along the Highway 363 corridor from St. Marks to Wakulla Station and along Highway 267, according to Sheriff David Harvey.
“The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office is giving attention to the Highway 267 and Highway 363 corridors to reduce crime, the fear of crime and enhance community policing,” said Sheriff Harvey.
The investigation got underway Jan. 26, when Detectives Derek Lawhon and Nick Boutwell arrested Ryan Andrew Kimberl, 18, of Crawfordville. Kimberl was charged with multiple counts of grand theft, burglary, trespassing and burglary of an occupied dwelling. Also arrested in the case were two 17-year-old juveniles. They both face multiple counts of grand theft and burglary for their involvement in cases reported on Sam Smith Circle, Field Loop, Quail Court, Royal Oaks Court, Hollywood Way, Bluebird Lane, Woodville Highway, Old Woodville Highway, Hidden Valley, Corkey Street and other locations. Detective Melissa Harris also investigated.
Kimberl and the juveniles led detectives to the homes they burglarized and some of the stolen property has been recovered. The items included ammunition, stereo equipment, gas cans, copper wire, iPods and extension cords, valued at more than $2,000. The three men entered homes, sheds and vehicles in the jurisdiction.
In addition on Jan. 27, detectives carried out a search warrant at the home of a 17-year-old Crawfordville juvenile in an attempt to solve more burglary cases. During the course of executing the search warrant, detectives discovered stolen property as well as illegal narcotics, cash and drug paraphernalia. The juvenile was charged with possession of narcotics equipment, possession of marijuana, burglary, criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools and grand theft. Deputy Rachel Oliver also investigated.
The two cases led to 47 arrest warrants being issued against four defendants.
The investigation continued on Jan. 27 with a report of the theft of copper wire from the northeastern section of Wakulla County. Detectives Lawhon and Boutwell put out a description of three suspects who were spotted carrying copper. Leon County Sheriff’s Office deputies found the three men, Daniel Lee Hadders, 23, of Tallahassee, Jon Gary Aldridge, 18, of Tallahassee and a 16-year-old juvenile, in southern Leon County and Wakulla detectives took them into custody. Hadders and Aldridge were charged with nine counts of grand theft of copper wire and the juvenile was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center in Tallahassee.
On Jan. 30, an undercover operation in St. Marks led to the arrest of Casey Ryan McCullers and William Arnold Roath in connection with the theft of copper wire from the Sam O. Purdom Power Plant. The two men were arrested as they attempted to leave the property through a hole they created in a Purdom property fence.
Detectives are still investigating other cases and additional arrests are possible.
Deputies responded to a call Sunday about an incident at the Sam O. Purdom Power Plant in Wakulla County.
31-year old Casey McCullers and 30-year old William Roath were taken into custody after they attempted to steal 200 pounds of copper wire - valued at 800 hundred dollars.
Major Maurice Langston from the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office says, "Over a period of time, they have stolen over $10,000 of copper and other metal."
Wakulla County Sheriff Deputies say copper wire theft is becoming more common with the economic decline. He says people will steal copper wire, burn it and trade it in for cash at a local metal works store.
Officials say the suspects entered the power plant by cutting a hole into this fence - and that's why the power plant manager says now they're taking more precautions to make sure this never happens again.
Plant manager Gordon King says, We will increase our patrols that we have and also we will be putting in some additional cameras in.
Major Langston says criminals are also stealing copper wire from residents' homes and powerpoles. But he warns- if they get caught, they're going straight to jail.
Langston says, "A lot of criminals think that they can have an edge on law enforcement and they can continue an activity or behavior and get away with it....We're gonna catch them."
William Roath was released from the Wakulla County Jail on $4500 bond. Casey McCullers remains in jail on $4750.
The Wakulla County sheriff deputies say the investigation remains ongoing and they are searching for more suspects in connection to the crime.