KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- A Branch Street woman had her SUV stolen twice by acquaintances in little more than a week -- and, if that wasn’t bad enough, the thieves crashed it the second time. Then they stole a bystander’s car and crashed it, according to police.
Tina M. Maier, 20, her brother Joseph T. Maier Jr., 30, and Joshua B. Kras, 20, were each charged Friday in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division. Tina Maier pleaded not guilty to a felony count of grand larceny, and a misdemeanor count of vehicle operation without the owner’s consent. Kras pleaded not guilty to grand larceny, while Joseph Maier pleaded not guilty to aggravated vehicle operation without the owner’s consent, and a first offense of driving under the influence of alcohol.
2003 Ford Explorer
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Robert Murawski, on Wednesday, June 19, at 10:59 p.m. Rachel S. Bebon, of Branch Street, said she heard her 2003 Ford Explorer hit her back porch. She saw it being driven away by Tina Maier with Kras as a passenger. When Vermont State Police stopped the vehicle in Bennington, Maier told police it was Kras’ idea to take it. Police saw white paint from the porch on the passenger side door but no damage.
Maier refused to speak to police, while Kras said it was Maier’s idea to go for a drive and she had the keys to the vehicle in her pocket. He said he did not know the vehicle was stolen.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Officer Thomas Bull, on Thursday, at 9:25 p.m., Bebon again reported her vehicle stolen. Soon after, police received word of a crash on west Main Street near Monument Avenue. Moments after that, police received word that those involved in the crash had taken a bystander’s car, a Toyota Camry, only to crash it as well.
Bennington Sheriff’s Deputy Joel Howard was the first officer on scene. He said he saw Tina Maier running down west Main Street to hide behind a tree near the Mid-Town Motel. He also saw Kras, who was later identified by his Mohawk hairstyle.
The driver of the stolen 2000 Toyota Camry was Joseph Maier, who Howard said had not left the scene. He was processed for DUI and told police he crashed because the tires on the Toyota had come off.
Out of the cemetery
Bull wrote that he spoke to William Clark, who was at the scene and told police he was driving east when he saw a vehicle hit the curb, lose its tires, and crash. He said he pulled over and while walking to the crashed car, saw two people come out of a nearby cemetery, get into his Toyota, and drive off. He was then told by someone else that a car matching that description had crashed into a baseball backstop by Monument Elementary School and that the occupants had fled east.
Bebon told police that Joseph Maier, Tina Maier, and Kras were drinking alcohol at her house when Joseph Maier decided he wanted to go to New York. She said she told him not to take her vehicle as he had been drinking but he did so anyway, leaving with his sister and Kras. She said Tina Maier telephoned her and told her about the crash. Half an hour later Tina Maier and Kras arrived at Bebon’s house, where they were arrested, according to Bull. Tina Maier admitted to being in both vehicles but said she did not steal them.
As a result of the arraignment hearings Friday, Joseph Maier was held for lack of $2,500 bail, which should he post he will have to obey a check-in schedule at the Bennington Police Department and not have alcohol, drive, leave the county, or have contact with the alleged victim or the other defendants.
Kras had the same amount of bail placed on him with similar conditions except alcohol is not restricted. Tina Maier’s conditions are similar as well, but her bail was set at $5,000 because she lacked ties to the area.