Forty-three indictments against eight defendants were handed down by a Rappahannock County Circuit Court grand jury on Monday (May 14). Many of the indictments, as Sheriff Connie C. Smith pointed out, relate to property or drug crimes – and some of them appear to be “drug crimes masquerading as property crimes,” she said, quoting former Commonwealth’s Attorney Peter Luke.
“People are stealing copper, aluminum, any metals,” Smith said in an interview Tuesday. “And recently, we’ve had tractors stolen, lawn mowers, weed eaters, trimmers – anything that can be sold for quick cash. With the economy the way it is, people are losing jobs and losing ways to make money legitimately. And that’s not just happening here, it’s happening all over the country and in the surrounding counties.”
Austin Duane Settle, 26, of Castleton was indicted on four counts each of breaking-and-entering, destruction of property and grand larceny.
According to Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) records, Settle entered the former Aileen plant building near Fodderstack Road in Flint Hill on four separate occasions and removed copper wire then sold for cash. In total, Settle received $4,266 for approximately 12,500 pounds of copper wire, which was stripped of its insulation and sold for about $3 per pound. The theft of copper was originally reported by property owner Alex Sharp in January; during the next four months, Sheriff’s Deputy Lee Settle (no relation) frequented local scrap yards looking for suspicious activity.
Austin Settle emerged as a suspect through that investigation, according to Smith. After the fourth break-in April 10, Settle allegedly received $1,784 for copper wire removed from the building. When confronted by the deputy at his home – when copper wire and casings were discovered in his Castleton residence – Settle reportedly confessed to four thefts.
Settle’s next court appearance is June 7. Goff said that Settle is already on a $3,000 secured bond in Fauquier County “for some serious felony charges,” which involve narcotics and gun possession. “Since he’s already on the hook down there, I don’t think he needs a high bond here,” Goff said in court. Settle was released on $3,000 bond.
Dustin Samuel Miller, 21, of Castleton was indicted on three grand larceny charges. According to RCSO records, Miller allegedly stole metal canisters, scrap metal and copper valued at more than $200 from a Castleton resident in late February. Miller allegedly sold the metal at a scrapyard. When confronted by Deputy Ronnie Dodson, who had uncovered the scrapyard sale, Miller reportedly confessed. The stolen property was photographed and returned to the owner.
“Most of our property crimes are drug-related,” Smith said Tuesday. “Once you start on an investigation and get to the bottom of it, cash for drugs is a common motive that emerges.”
James Daniel Wines, 28, and Ashleigh Renee Baldwin, 22, were each indicted on five felony charges of drug possession and a felony child-abuse charge of “reckless disregard for human life.” Wines was also indicted on a further drug distribution charge involving a child. Both are being held at the Rappahannock Jail, awaiting bond.
According to RCSO records, this case originally began as an investigation into reports of child abuse involving a young child in the custody of the two. A March 2 search of the house, Smith said, turned up schedule II drugs: cocaine, and the opiates oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone (dilaudid) and oxymorphone (opana).
Lloyd Timothy Freeman, 47, was indicted on five counts of grand larceny and four counts of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. According to the sheriff’s office, Freeman allegedly stole a diamond ring from a Flint Hill resident in November. Sometime between Oct. 1 and Feb. 2, Freeman allegedly took four firearms from the same home: two 12-gauge shotguns, a Smith & Wesson .22 rifle and a Browning .410 shotgun. One of the firearms was recovered after Freeman allegedly attempted to sell the item to a resident not far from the home he robbed.
Miriam White, 49, was indicted on four counts of grand larceny and one count of obtaining money through false pretenses. According to RCSO records, White allegedly signed on March 28 a contract to sell timber harvested off of a property that she was renting, without the land owner’s knowledge or consent. Timber was allegedly cut and hauled off in April, reportedly at least six truckloads. Proceeds were not turned over to the property owner, according to the sheriff.
Randall Daniel Dodson, 38, and Stacey Dodson, 31, of Washington were indicted on a felony charge each of writing a bad check and will next appear June 7 at 9 a.m. According to RCSO records, on Feb. 2, the two cashed a check for $320 at the Laurel Mills Store in Castleton.
“We’re having tractors and lawnmowers taken,” Smith said, noting that two tractors were reported taken in the last few weeks. “People are breaking into people’s sheds or barns, stealing chainsaws, trimmers and other hand tools, because they can get rid of ‘em quick. Don’t leave woodsplitters, tractors and lawnmowers exposed so they can be taken. This is happening in Culpeper and Fauquier too – anything that can be quickly thrown onto a trailer or truck and sold for fast cash is not safe.”
Smith said her officers and dispatchers have been extremely busy lately.
“They’re trying to close out cases and get the victim’s property back that was taken, so the victims can have some kind of peace of mind,” Smith said. “But unfortunately, in most cases the victims have to pay out of pocket to replace what was stolen, then have to wait on the judge to set some kind of restitution – and then that’s a long process of getting that money back still. That’s one of the reasons that I really promote the work-release program. People are able to pay their child support, their fines, costs and restitution while they’re in here – and at least the victims get some money back that way.”