Robbery, Beating Suspect Nabbed

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BERLIN – Worcester County Bureau of Investigation detectives last week made an arrest of a suspect responsible for the beating and robbery of a Berlin convenience store owner as he locked up his business in December.

Around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 6, an unknown suspect assaulted and robbed the owner of the Uncle Willie’s convenience store in Berlin as the victim was closing and leaving the store for the night. While the storeowner was closing up shop, an unknown suspect, described as an African-American male of short stature, began beating him with a baseball bat or other object.

The victim told police he was struck with the unknown object at last 15 times, which resulted in serious injury. Berlin police located the victim at his residence in the Mallard Ridge Apartments and he was taken to nearby Atlantic General Hospital where he was treated and released. An undisclosed amount of money was taken during the assault and robbery. WCBI detectives interviewed the victim at AGH on the day of the incident.

As the investigation developed, WCBI gained information on a possible suspect in the attack and robbery. The case was then solved with the assistance of the Berlin Police Department’s voice stress examiner, who was trained by the National Institute for Truth Verification in Florida.

The suspect was identified as Byron Keith Tunnel, 20, of Berlin. Tunnel was arrested and charged robbery, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and theft. He was taken before a District Court Commissioner and is being held on a $75,000 bond.

Local Burglar Up To Old Tricks

BERLIN – A local man with a history of theft and burglary arrests was apparently up to his old tricks this week when Maryland State Police troopers responded to a burglar alarm activation at a store on Assateague Rd. and found the suspect riding his bicycle near the scene of the crime.

Shortly before 1 a.m. on Sunday, troopers responded to Buck’s Place on Assateague Rd. at Route 611 for a burglar alarm activation.

Upon arrival, the troopers observed evidence of a forced entry into the place of business. A trooper patrolled the area and located a suspect, identified as Roger Vincent Welton, 21, of Berlin, riding a bicycle in close proximity to the store. The investigation linked Welton to the burglary that had just taken place at Buck’s Place and he was arrested and charged with second- and fourth-degree burglary, malicious destruction of property and theft. He was ordered held on a $25,000 bond.

Welton is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but his recent track record suggests the MSP troopers got the right suspect. In October, Welton was arrested after resort detectives were able to connect him to three commercial burglaries in the resort as well as the theft of over a dozen vehicle license plates dating back to 2005.

Back on Oct. 1, 2009, an Ocean City police detective responded to the pool bar at the Plim Plaza in reference to a reported burglary. During the on-scene investigation, the detective obtained a surveillance video showing a suspect, later identified as Welton, at the scene of the crime. Detectives were able to identify Weldon as the suspect and secured a search and seizure warrant for his residence.

During the search of Weldon’s house, evidence was collected and stolen property was recovered linking Weldon to three reported commercial burglaries in the resort including two incidents at Plim Plaza and one at the Jolly Roger Amusement Park. In addition, police also located in Weldon’s residence 13 license plates from various states and Canada. It was later determined the license plates were stolen on Assateague back in August 2005. That information was forwarded to Assateague Island authorities.

During the search of Weldon’s residence, OCPD detectives recovered roughly $2,000 in stolen items connected to the burglaries at Plim Plaza and Jolly Rogers. He was charged with one count of felony second-degree burglary and two counts of misdemeanor fourth-degree burglary. His trial in that case is set for February 2.

In September 2007, Welton was convicted on theft charges for stealing a woman’s wallet at a local bar where he worked as a bus boy and was sentenced to 90 days in jail with all but 30 days suspended. In that case, the victim testified that on Sept. 18, 2007, she was at a local saloon when she noticed that her wallet was missing. After looking around the restaurant, she notified the manager that she could not find her wallet. The manager searched the area and questioned several employees but was unable to find the wallet. The victim testified that she had $450 in her wallet along with a credit card and other various items.

Officer Chris Snyder testified that upon arrival, the wallet was still missing but the manager believed that Welton, who was a bus boy at the restaurant, knew where it was. After phoning Welton, the manager learned that Welton had found the wallet and placed it on a counter.

Snyder made several attempts to call Welton, but Welton refused to speak to him. When Snyder finally made contact with Welton, the suspect changed his story, claiming he had put the wallet in his apron and that it had fallen into the dumpster by accident when he was taking out the trash. The wallet was found in the back, bottom left corner of the dumpster but was missing $450 and the victim’s credit card.

Welton testified he had put the wallet in his apron and had intended on giving it to his manager. He claimed he forgot about the wallet until he received the phone call later that night after work. When asked how the wallet could fall from his apron, into the dumpster and end up in the far back corner, Welton had no explanation.

Several Arrested In Round-Up

BERLIN – Several people were arrested on various charges including drug possession and outstanding warrants last week during a joint criminal initiative carried out by the Maryland State Police and Berlin Police.

Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. last Thursday, the Maryland State Police, assisted by Berlin police, conducted a joint criminal initiative in Berlin. The initiative included six MSP troopers, two Berlin Police officers and three additional canine handlers. During the initiative, a total of 88 vehicles were stopped. Nine of those vehicles were scanned by a police K-9 for possible criminal activity afoot.

As a result of the K-9 scans, three suspects were arrested and charged with possession of marijuana including Melissa Fay Timmons, 27, of Frankford, Del., who was found with over 12 grams of weed. Charles William Keirle, 22, of Berlin was also arrested and charged with possession after being found with just under one gram of marijuana, while a 17-year-old juvenile from Berlin was charged with possession after being found with five grams of marijuana.

Two individuals were arrested on outstanding warrants during the joint initiative. Elizabeth Grace Pruitt, 24, of Crisfield, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear on a driving while suspended charge. Demiah Dawn Nooney, 25, of Berlin, was arrested on an outstanding warrant for drug violations. In addition, five individuals were issued citations for driving while suspended violations.

Prescription Drug Arrest

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) last week concluded a four-month prescription drug distribution investigation with the arrest of a Berlin man.

Last Thursday, OCPD narcotics detectives arrested Patrick William Hightower, 42, of Berlin, on two counts of felony controlled dangerous substance distribution after the suspect sold prescription drugs to an undercover OCPD narcotics officer. During the course of the four-month investigation, Hightower allegedly sold prescription drugs to the undercover officer on at least two occasions.

Hightower was taken before an Ocean City District Court Commissioner and was ordered held on a $100,000 bond. He has since been transferred to the Worcester County Jail. The OCPD is taking the opportunity to remind citizens selling prescription medication is a crime and warning would-be dealers the person they are selling to could be an undercover OCPD detective.

Cocaine Bust Nets Six Months

OCEAN CITY – A Berlin man arrested on drug charges last March after Ocean City police found the suspect wanted on outstanding warrants in a midtown nightclub pleaded guilty last week to cocaine possession and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on March 27, 2009, an OCPD officer had just completed an EMS call at Seacrets on 49th Street when he was informed a man the OCPD was looking for on two outstanding warrants, later identified as Leroy Poole, 44, of Berlin, was inside the nightclub. OCPD officers went inside and located Poole, who they identified from his mugshot photo and their previous experience with him. An officer approached Poole and asked him to step outside. Once outside, Poole was advised there were two warrants active for his arrest.

Poole argued, stating he had sent a letter to the judge asking that his cases be postponed. The officers told Poole the warrants would only be rescinded if the judge had agreed to postpone his cases. With that, Poole stated he was going home.

Meanwhile, OCPD communications confirmed the status of the two warrants with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department. Poole was then placed under arrest. During an attempted search of his person, Poole pulled away and told police the search was not legal because no one was watching, despite the fact there were several officers nearby.

During the search, Poole put his hand in his pocket and refused to bring it out despite orders to do so. He eventually pulled something from his pocket and held it in his clenched fist. He was ordered to drop what he was holding but refused until force was used to get him to drop it. It turned out to be a plastic bag of suspected powder cocaine. In addition to his arrest on the two outstanding warrants, Poole was also charged with possession of cocaine. Last week, Poole pleaded guilty to CDS possession and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Probation for Next Day DWI

BERLIN – A Pocomoke man arrested on drunk-driving charges in Berlin in November after admittedly partying at an Ocean City hotel the night before pleaded guilty this week to driving while impaired and was granted probation before judgment and fined.

Around 10:45 a.m. on Nov. 1, Berlin Police observed a 1985 Chevy truck operating in a reckless manner on Route 113 near Route 346 in Berlin. Berlin Police stopped the truck, which was occupied by a total of six passengers, two of whom were in the rear bed of the vehicle. The driver, identified as Ethan James Long, 19, of Pocomoke, was administered field sobriety tests, resulting in his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence and other related charges.

During the investigation, Long admitted to having been at an underage drinking party at a hotel in Ocean City the night before. Two cases of beer and a bottle of liquor were confiscated. Each of the remaining occupants in the vehicle were under the age of 21 as well. In District Court on Tuesday, Long pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and was placed on probation and fined $400.

Clarification

SNOW HILL – Last week’s “Cops and Courts” section included a brief report about a  man having the traffic and weapons charges against him placed on the stet, or inactive, docket, but included information about the outcome of his case that could be misinterpreted.

On Dec. 18, a Worcester County Sheriff’s deputy on routine patrol stopped a vehicle on Route 113 near Newark for going 68 mph in a 55 mph zone. When the deputy made contact with the driver, identified as Cody H. Phillips, 18, of Berlin, the officer noticed a loaded 30-30 rifle partially concealed between the driver’s seat and the driver’s door next to his left arm.

Last week, it was reported Phillips pleaded guilty and had the charges against him placed on the stet docket. What the report did not make clear, however, is that Phillips pleaded guilty to the speeding violation that initiated the stop, but did not plead guilty to the weapons charge. In either case, Phillips did have the weapons charge against him placed on the stet docket, and pleaded guilty to the speeding charge. We regret any confusion.

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