Thursday April 18, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A Silver Street man was arraigned Wednesday in connection with the theft of half a ton of copper from the former Mount Anthony Middle School, which police said did an estimated $75,000 in damage to the building. A state prosecutor indicated more people will likely be charged.

Gregory A. Croff, 31, pleaded not guilty to one count of burglary. He was on furlough when arrested which the Department of Corrections revoked because of the new charge, however Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division Judge Cortland T. Corsones ordered him held until a bail hearing can be scheduled.

According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer James A. Gulley Jr., on April 3, shortly before 10 a.m. he met with Jon E. Hale, caretaker for the former middle school on Main Street who said the building had been entered and copper and brass stolen.

Hale told police he had not been inside the building for some months but had regularly looked around the exterior and had not seen any signs of entry. Gulley said he, Hale, and another officer surveyed the damage and it was Gulley’s opinion the thefts had been occurring over a long period of time.

The $75,000 damage estimate was made by Hale, who said that is what it would cost in material and labor to restore the building to what it was before the thefts.


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Gulley said he sent an email out to other officers in the police department asking if they had received any information on the thefts in their duties. He said Detective Peter Urbanowicz told him about Dan Torres, 26, who had reported to police that around Thanksgiving he was approached by Susan Hall, who asked him if he wanted to make money by helping Tracey Eastman, 40, cut copper from the former middle school. He said he declined the offer but talked to Croff and was told Croff had made $150 helping Eastman cut copper.

Croff was located by police and agreed to speak to them. Croff told them he lived with Eastman between October and December and saw Eastman stealing metal from the former school. He said he was not involved in the thefts but told police that Hall, Eastman, Allen D. Button, 43, and Tara Campbell were involved. He said Button’s vehicle was used to transport the material to a scrapyard.

Attorney Frederick Bragdon, who represents Croff, asked Corsones to review probable cause for the charge saying the only thing tying Croff to the matter was hearsay and it was not clear on where the alleged copper cutting had been done. Corsones said Torres allegedly spoke directly to Croff and given the context of the affidavit the mention of cutting was enough for arraignment purposes.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr