Men sentenced for AEP break-in

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 17, 2007

Two men arrested for breaking into American Electric Power facilities to steal copper earlier this year admitted their guilt last week in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

Terry Unrue, 30, of 1919 S. Fourth St., Ironton, pleaded guilty on a bill of information to three counts of disrupting a public service and three counts of theft.

By pleading guilty on a bill of information, Unrue will avoid having his case heard by a grand jury and will avoid a trial as well.

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Judge Charles Cooper sentenced him to 17 months in prison, but said he could be eligible for judicial release after six months if he abides by all the terms of his sentence, stays out of trouble while he is in prison and if he is able to get into a community based correctional facility (CBCF).

After he is released from prison and the CBCF, he must serve four years community controlled sanctions under intensive supervised probation (CCS/ISP).

“I messed up,” Unrue told Cooper.

Unrue’s attorney, Derick Fisher, asked for a brief furlough for his client before Unrue must report to prison.

“His father recently suffered a severe heart attack. Mr. Unrue does have children. He’d like at least a couple of days before he reports,” Fisher said. Cooper granted the furlough.

His cohort, Gary Smith, 29, of 108 Columbus St., South Point, pleaded guilty on a bill of information to two counts of disrupting public service and two counts of theft. Cooper sentenced him to four years CCS/ISP and ordered him to successfully complete a rehabilitation program at a community based correctional facility.

In recommending a sentence for Gary Smith, Assistant Lawrence County Prosecutor Jeff Smith told Cooper the defendant admitted his involvement in the incidents and cooperated with investigating authorities and that the thefts were the result of a drug problem.

Both men must make $5,241.33 restitution to AEP, jointly or severally.

Heather Waddle, 19, of 206 Heplar St., Ironton, was also arrested in connection with the thefts. She has not yet made an appearance in court.

AEP officials told local authorities their facilities in Hamilton Township and Coal Grove were struck by thieves at least three times in less than a month. The thieves stole copper during the break-ins, a common problem locally since scrap copper has a high resale value.