Man gets probation in chicken-house burglaries

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 2, 2008

COURTLAND—A man accused of stealing items from the chicken houses along Route 671 near Sunbeam pleaded guilty Thursday in Southampton County Circuit Court.

Jeremy Wade Cornwell was sentenced to five years in prison, with all of the time suspended on condition of good behavior while he’s under supervised probation.

Cornwell also was ordered to pay court costs and to make restitution to Raymond Drake, owner of the chicken houses. The amount of that restitution still is a subject of debate between prosecutors and the defendant’s attorney, so another hearing is scheduled in August to settle that issue.

Drake’s chicken houses have been the targets of thieves several times in recent years. As the price of steel and other metals continues to rise, the reclamation value of recycled metal items also has gone up, making metals-rich sites such as the chicken houses ripe targets for thieves looking to turn a quick buck.

Though he disagreed with the list of things that he was accused of stealing, Cornwell admitted his guilt to police when they interviewed him the day after the Nov. 5 theft.

In court Thursday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Cooke listed radiators from two trucks, chicken wire, aluminum pipes, tin, a wood stove, a six-foot freezer, a hand truck and a set of shelves as having been stolen by Cornwell.

At least some of the items were sold as scrap to Franklin Disposal and Recycling on Route 671, according to Cooke.

During his police interview, Cornwell said he had not stopped at the chicken houses intending to steal anything.

“I pulled in to turn around, and I seen it sitting there,” he said of the items he stole.