Accused church burglar goes to trial

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

It was a visit no one was thankful for.

Around Thanksgiving last year, the faithful at 18 Lawrence County churches arrived at their houses of worship to find their electronic equipment, musical instruments, and in some cases, money taken and their churches vandalized.

At the same time, a Lawrence County man's house had been burglarized while he was visiting his mother.

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Who committed these deeds? A Lawrence County Common Pleas Court jury this week will decide if 27-year-old Robert Crum, of Huntington, W.Va., is to blame.

Crum's trial began Monday before Judge Richard Walton.

In his opening argument, Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Mack Anderson told the seven-woman, five-man jury that Crum targeted the churches and then broke into them while his then girlfriend, Misty Curtis of South Point kept a look out in waiting vehicles outside the churches and the one residence.

Anderson said Curtis, who has already pleaded guilty to her part in the crimes, will testify against Crum.

&#8220She was involved as much as he was but she came forth and pleaded guilty. She got two years and she has served six months of that sentence and has been granted judicial release in return for her cooperation,” Anderson said.

But David Reid Dillon, attorney for Crum, told the jury in his opening statement, not to believe Curtis' testimony.

&#8220She was someone with very much to gain by pinning it on someone else,” he said.

Lawrence County Sheriff's detective Aaron Bollinger testified Monday that when the rash of church burglaries occurred in late November and early December 2004, he immediately noticed that the incidents had some things in common.

Entry was gained by use of

a pry bar and that sound boards, amplifiers, speakers, compact disc players and television sets were most often stolen.

After conferring with Huntington, W.Va., police, authorities found many of the stolen items at Cabell County, W.Va. pawn shops. Crum and Curtis were arrested Dec. 7, 2004 at Classic Pawn and Loan near Barboursville.

Bollinger also testified that when he interviewed Crum about the break-ins, Crum pointed the finger at someone else.

&#8220He said he had received these things (stolen goods) from a skinny black male with dreadlocks who went by the name ‘Taz'”, Bollinger said. &#8220He even stated that was probably not the man's real name.”

Huntington, W.Va., police Sgt. David Castle testified that a latent print obtained at the scene of one of the crimes matched Crum's left thumb print taken by police at the time of his arrest.

A number of victims were called to the witness stand Monday, most of them members of churches where the break-ins occurred. In addition, some witnesses who

saw the break-ins occur also testified.

Helen McClure, who attends Burlington Baptist Church, testified she was passing by her church the Sunday afternoon her church was broken into and saw a red car sitting in the parking lot and a man exiting the front door of the church carrying something under his arm.

A blonde haired girl was waiting in the car.

McClure said when she arrived later for the Sunday night service she learned the people at the church earlier in the day had stolen equipment from it.

The trial resumes today in Common Pleas Court.