Pair charged in storage unit thefts


By Tom Joyce - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com



Charges were disclosed Tuesday against two men stemming from the recent theft of property valued at about $60,000 from storage units in Mount Airy and multiple vehicle larcenies.

A total of 11 felony counts have been issued against Justin Glenn Wright, 29, of Mount Airy (no street address available), and Todd Emerson Collins Jr., 37, a former Ararat resident whose present address is unknown.

The charges relate to break-ins of three units discovered in early October at Sheets Transfer & Storage on Hickory Street which involved two motorcycles and a long list of other property being stolen, and the theft of two pickups in the same vicinity.

Both Wright and Emerson are charged with four counts of larceny of a motor vehicle; four counts of breaking and entering, related to the storage units; and three counts of larceny after breaking and entering, also involving the units.

“We know for sure that they entered one unit twice,” Detective J.W. Cox of the Mount Airy Police Department explained Tuesday regarding only three larceny charges accompanying the four storage unit break-ins.

Both Wright and Collins were still at large Tuesday, but will be arrested on outstanding warrants on felony violations filed once they are located by authorities.

Police have said the method of entry at Sheets included cutting or drilling into the locks of the units in order to destroy the mechanisms and remove the locks. The crimes were discovered on Oct. 3 and Oct. 15.

The incidents involved units shared by Gregory Lane Slate of Wards Gap Road and Martin Keith Semones, a Herring Street resident; another containing property of James Algie Penn of Maple Drive and Beverly Hagwood of Greentown Road; and a third unit with items owned by Ronnie Dean Hardy and Debbie Meadows Hardy of Greenhill Road.

In addition to a pair of 2000 Yamaha motorcycles valued at $12,000 each that were in the storage unit of Slate and Semones, a large array of other items collectively were stolen from the three structures.

Included was a $10,000 cedar chest containing various Dale Earnhardt items and other furniture, such as a curio cabinet; stereo equipment; two Stihl chainsaws and a Stihl leaf blower; lamps; a computer system; 150 compact discs; motorcycle helmets and riding suits; tents; tools; and more.

The other vehicles stolen were a 2003 Ford F-250 extended cab pickup valued at $5,700, discovered missing on Oct. 5 from Phillips Motor Co. on West Lebanon Street, and a 1994 Ford Ranger pickup discovered stolen the same day from the parking lot of Synergy Signs on Starlite Road.

Cox added that investigators have had mixed results in reuniting the stolen property with its owners.

About 85 to 90 percent of the items taken from Penn’s storage unit, for example, have been recovered, but some was damaged, he said.

A portion of storage unit property was found during a search of Collins’ former residence in Ararat later in October, which led to initial charges against him. Collins is believed to have been bonded out of jail after that and vacated the residence, with authorities not knowing his present whereabouts to serve the outstanding warrants.

Collins served six years in prison from September 2010 to Nov. 24 last year. He had been convicted of six counts of breaking and entering, six counts of larceny after breaking in, larceny from a vehicle, larceny of a vehicle, possession of a firearm by a felon and achieving the status of a habitual felon.

Filing the violations against Collins and Wright required by a painstaking investigation by Cox, the city detective; as well as Detective Scott Hudson of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office; and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia, reflecting the multiple jurisdictional lines the case crossed.

Their cooperation and sharing of information led to it being solved, although there were occasions “when leads would carry us in a wrong direction and we would be back where we started, so to speak,” Cox said.

By Tom Joyce

tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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