Saturday July 27, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A man accused of stealing two vehicles from a scrap yard and selling one was released on conditions from Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division on Friday.

Brian J. Raetz, 38, of Bennington, pleaded not guilty to a felony count of aggravated vehicle operation without the owner’s consent, giving false information to a police officer, a misdemeanor count of vehicle operation without the owner’s consent, possession of stolen property, two counts of unlawful trespass, and two counts of petit larceny. He must obey a check-in schedule at the Bennington Police Department and is not allowed to go the scrap yard where the thefts allegedly took place.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Joshua Stemp, on Thursday at 10 p.m., Joshua Greene told him that two vehicles he bought from Walt’s Towing had been stolen from his scrap yard on Chapel Road. Both were able to be driven, but their registrations were removed and he had intended to scrap them.

Greene told police the scrap yard is monitored by cameras and supplied them with photos of a man who drove one of the vehicles, a Ford F-150, out of the junkyard. Greene said the man lived nearby but he did not know his name.

Stemp wrote that the man in the photo was identified as Raetz, who was tracked down to North Branch Street where he lives in a tent behind a residence there. Stemp wrote there was also a sedan there matching the description of the one reported stolen by Greene.

According to Stemp, Raetz admitted to taking the sedan, saying he needed a car to look for a job. He denied taking the truck until he was confronted with the photographs. He then said he sold the truck to Leblanc’s Auto Recycling for $400 and used the money to buy food, lip rings, and tongue rings.

Initially, Raetz said he was alone when he took the vehicle, but then said his girlfriend accompanied him and the two concocted a story to tell if the police asked questions.

Stemp said he spoke to Raetz’s girlfriend, who said she saw him with the vehicles and he had an explanation for the sedan but not the truck. She said she was with him when he sold the truck. Stemp wrote he did not believe Raetz’s version of events concerning her involvement.