Carpet tools were stolen, court says

A former employee of Early’s Carpet, the Amissville flooring company, was found guilty of grand larceny in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Tuesday afternoon (April 23).

Michael S. Barthlow, a 30-year-old Ocklawaha, Fla. resident, was indicted here last November for stealing a heat welder and other tools from the toolbox of Solon Betts, his former boss at Early’s Carpet. Barthlow pleaded not guilty to the charge Tuesday afternoon, but was found guilty by Judge Burke F. McCahill after a three-hour trial.

Barthlow, who began working at the carpet and flooring store in 2010, maintained that the tools he took Oct. 18 from the box in the back of the company truck belonged to him and that he had purchased them from business co-owner Lorraine Early and was paying them off over a period of 19 months.

Early testified that Barthlow’s $250 monthly salary deduction was to rent a property she owned in  Opal, not to pay for any tools. Barthlow said he had spoken with Early about purchasing a heat welder, a tool which is used to join pieces of vinyl flooring together, and that she agreed to order one and let him pay for it with monthly paycheck deductions. Barthlow said the money was also used to help pay rent on the property ($850 a month). He admitted he was behind on the rent payments.

Barthlow also said he had heard “through the grapevine” that Early wanted him to move out of the house. Early admitted she had put the house on the market, but claimed she told Barthlow about this plan in September; she added that Barthlow told her he was planning to move into his father-in-law’s house in Centreville.

Under questioning from Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, Betts said he left his truck’s toolbox unlocked for Barthlow after Barthlow asked to borrow a hand truck to move some furniture. Betts, who was going to Tennessee for a family member’s wedding, said he asked Barthlow to lock the toolbox back up when he was done.

On Monday morning, Oct. 22, Betts arrived at work and found Barthlow had not yet arrived. Betts said he sent Barthlow several text messages asking where he was and why he was late to work; later that evening, Betts said he received a reply message informing him Barthlow had quit and was now in Florida, where he owns a house.

Betts said he found the heat welder was missing from the toolbox that day, along with a Dewalt drill, a battery pack for the drill, a hand truck and a push broom handle.

Barthlow testified that the drill was one he had bought to replace one he had temporarily broken on an earlier job. He said Early had told him the payments for the heat welder were paid in full.

“I like to have my own tools,” Barthlow said. He was, however, unable to produce any receipts to support his claim of purchasing the tool.

Both Betts and Early denied ever agreeing to purchase any tools for Barthlow, with Betts adding that, though he had lent Barthlow the heat welder to practice with before a training class, there had never been two heat welders in the truck or at the business, and that Barthlow’s personal toolbox was entirely too small to house such a large tool.

Ricky Burke, a sub-contractor for Early’s, said he met with Barthlow at a convenience store in Rixeyville a few days before Barthlow left for Florida to return a previously purchased tool. Burke said Barthlow told him, “Solon is in for a big surprise Monday morning.”

“The evidence here is pretty overwhelming. There can be no question whatsoever about the ownership of the tools,” said Goff in his summary, asserting that Barthlow’s acts amounted to revenge on an employer he believed had treated him unfairly. “He stole those tools so could use them to go into business for himself down in Florida.”

“Mr. Barthlow did do kind of a rotten thing by leaving without notice,” said defense attorney Amanda Zadrozny. “But he took only the items that he believed belonged to him . . . his own word is sufficient to establish that belief.”

It was not for Judge McCahill. “It’s clear to me that this was a chance to settle the score,” said McCahill, who, after several minutes of deliberation, found Barthlow guilty and remanded him into custody at the Rappahannock County Jail.

Barthlow’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 8.

Elder Settle pleads guilty to copper theft

In court last Thursday (April 18), 52-year-old Castleton resident Aubrey Douglas Settle pleaded guilty to grand larceny and entering a structure to commit larceny.

Summarizing evidence for the court, Goff said that between Jan. 1 and April 10 of last year, Settle entered the old Aileen factory in Flint Hill multiple times, stealing copper pipes and other brass fixtures from one of the abandoned bathrooms.

Goff said that Settle and his son, Austin Duane Settle (sentenced to 17 months in jail in January), sold the copper at Wise Recycling in Culpeper for $1,160. Goff added that the elder Settle voluntarily turned himself into the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office.

Settle is due to be sentenced on July 8.

New counsel, no bond for Alther

Rixeyville resident Keith Allen Alther had his bond revoked last Thursday after making threatening statements to his defense attorney, Maria Washington. Washington and Alther were apparently having disagreements over his defense.

Washington recused herself from the case; public defender Peter Hanson was appointed as Alther’s new counsel. Alther is charged with one count of felony assault and battery on a sheriff’s deputy during a fire hall shooting competition in Castleton last Oct. 19.

According to court documents, Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Baker approached a car that 32-year-old Alther was driving. Alther is accused of telling Baker he was “going to kill him,” after which Baker pulled Alther from his vehicle and handcuffed him.

Alther’s next court date is June 12, though he asked Judge Jeffrey W. Parker for an earlier bond hearing. Parker told him his new lawyer will have to file that motion.