Suspect jailed in theft of almost a mile of copper wire; investigator estimates replacement cost at $50,000

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

April 14, 2008 - A Terrell man was jailed Sunday and bail set at more than $40,000 after he was caught with almost a mile of copper wire authorities believe was cut from live electrical poles in southern Hopkins County over the weekend.

Steve Eddy Turner, 49, was arraigned on two felony counts of theft of between $20,000 and $100,000 in property and remained in the Hopkins County jail this morning.

A 34-year-old Terrell woman that was with Turner at the time the copper wiring was discovered was also jailed. She was wanted on a Dallas County warrant for bond forfeiture.

Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Worley stopped to check on a 1990 Mitsubishi Montero parked on a dead-end lane near County Road 2412 about 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

"He stopped to talk to them and saw the wire," said Hopkins County Sheriff's Investigator Lewis Tatum.

Worley called for assistance, and Tatum, joined by Hopkins County Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Finley and Reserve Deputy Stewart Helm, were dispatched to the scene.

A quick survey of the area located the utility poles that had been stripped of wire.

Authorities believe the perpetrator of the theft had experience in working with high-voltage distribution lines. Tatum said Turner had fashioned an apparatus, complete with hooks, to scale the poles, not unlike the kind of gear an electrical lineman would have used. He also had a long pole with a device similar to a "limb lopper" used to cut high tree limbs.

While some of the lines between the 13 poles were "live" and carrying a full charge, electrocution was avoided because only the "neutral" wires were cut.

"And it happened without any interruption of electrical service," added Chief Sheriff's Deputy Rickey Morgan.

The copper wire's length was estimated at close to 4,900 feet and was apparently taken from the spans between 13 utility poles.

Apparently, Tatum said, Turner was finishing the job when he was found by Trooper Worley. Authorities believe half the work was done on Saturday, the rest on Sunday.

The wire, taken from Wood County Electric Cooperate poles, probably weighed in at about 500 pounds, Tatum estimated. At the current going rate of $3.05 a pound, the wire should fetch around $1,500.

But the financial loss is far greater for Wood County Electric. Tatum said the cost to replace the wiring on the 13 poles will run in the neighborhood of $50,000.

Ultimately, Tatum said, the ones who will pay the most had nothing to do with the crime.

"It's all going to end up going back to the customers who pay the electric bills," Tatum said.

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