By CHRISTIN COYNE
Three people suspected of stealing copper wire from a communications tower north of Weatherford Friday were reportedly caught in the act by a witness, who provided information that helped lead to their arrest, according to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office.
A caller reported a theft in progress in the 11000 block of Old Agnes Road around 1:30 p.m. and provided a description of the suspects and vehicle, according to the arresting deputy’s probable cause affidavit.
The witness reportedly told police he saw a man and two woman taking property from an AT&T radio tower site moments earlier and loading it into a truck.
Minutes later, Parker County Deputy Evan Cox spotted an older model Ford Ranger with a bed full of scrap metal traveling westbound on State Highway 199 and initiated a traffic stop, according to Cox.
The driver, 34-year-old Joseph Verlyn Guthrie, stated that he and his two friends had borrowed the truck from a friend and was scrapping metal from various locations in Parker County.
The deputy reportedly located more than $50 and less than $500 worth of scrap metal in the truck, along with a chest freezer, a table saw and a strand of sheathed copper wire in the bed, according to the sheriff’s office.
Guthrie later told investigators that he took items from the radio tower site, the sheriff’s office reported.
All three suspects in the vehicle - Guthrie, 23-year-old Christine Smiddy and 17-year-old Summer McDonald, all of Springtown - were arrested and charged with theft of property and felony theft of metal, less than $20,000.
Sheriff’s records indicate communication tower sites have been hit at least three times by metal thieves within the past couple weeks.
On Jan. 3, a Verizon employee reported that a tower site in the 2700 block of Cattlebaron Drive suffered a power outage after copper wiring was removed from a meter box to the building. It was not clear whether the theft Friday caused an outage.
Another theft of copper wire from the same Verizon tower was reported on Jan. 6, sheriff’s office records indicate. Similar copper wire thefts were also reported at other types of locations around the county, including from drilling sites and residences, during the past month, according to sheriff’s office reports.