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7-Eleven, hotel are the latest in a string of W.Va. robberies

January 28, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

A 7-Eleven store on Moler Avenue and a Days Inn hotel on Viking Way near the Martinsburg Mall were robbed within 24 hours of each other in the early hours of Sunday and Monday, according to Martinsburg Police.

The robberies add to a series of robberies in Berkeley County, W.Va., since October. Police say many of the robberies can be attributed to people who are trying to support crack and heroin habits.

The first of the most recent robberies occurred Sunday at about 4:03 a.m. at the 7-Eleven store at 846 E. Moler Ave., Martinsburg Police Detective George Swartwood said.

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A black man wearing a black jacket, black pants, a black skullcap and black gloves passed a "demand note" to a cashier and made motions as if he had a gun, Swartwood said.

A gun was never displayed and the man escaped with a small amount of money, Swartwood said. The robber was described as being between 5 feet, 6 inches and 5 feet, 9 inches tall, Swartwood said.

The man is believed to be in his 30s with a light beard, police said.

The second robbery occurred at about 3:15 a.m. Monday at the Days Inn at 209 Viking Way, Swartwood said.

A black man wearing black pants, gray knit gloves and a black and gray sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head gave a note to a night desk clerk and motioned as if he had a gun, Swartwood said.

No weapon was displayed and the man left with a small amount of money, Swartwood said.

The robber at the Days Inn was described as being in his 20s, about 5-feet, 7 inches tall and weighing between 150 pounds and 160 pounds, Swartwood said.

The two robberies had similar characteristics and the descriptions of the robbers were similar, Swartwood said.

Police have developed a composite of the man who robbed the Days Inn.

Swartwood said there have been a significant number of robberies in the area recently and said many of them can be traced to people who are addicted to crack cocaine and heroin.

Police, however, said they had no statistics that indicate whether crack or heroin use is up in the area.

"I would say drugs is the biggest cause of it," said Lt. Dennis Streets of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

The sheriff's department has made several arrests in similar cases recently and in some of those cases, those arrested said they committed the offenses to support drug habits, Streets said.

A trooper at the West Virginia State Police barrack in Berkeley County said state police have investigated "a lot" of burglaries that can be traced to drug abuse.

Sgt. Deke Walker, spokesman for the state police in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, said he could not tell if troopers are running across more heroin and crack.

"We are finding some now and then. I don't think there has been a dramatic increase but there may have been some increase," Walker said.

Berkeley County robbery cases since October include:

- A man was charged with holding a knife to a clerk's throat during a Jan. 14 robbery at a Shell gas station in Pikeside. Court records allege the man told police he needed the money because he owed someone for crack cocaine.

- A man was charged with the Jan. 16 robbery of the Eastern Panhandle Community Federal Credit Union along W.Va. 9 west near the entrance to the General Motors plant and escaping with about $5,000.

- A man confessed to a Jan. 11 armed robbery at the Inwood, W.Va., 7-Eleven on Dec. 22 and attempting to rob a pizza delivery person at the Mill Creek Market parking lot in Bunker Hill on Jan. 9.

- Two Eastern Panhandle women were charged in December robberies of a Shell gas station on W.Va. 9 and an Exxon station on Edwin Miller Boulevard.

- A Martinsburg man was charged in December with robberies at two Berkeley County stores on one day in November. The stores were the Texaco station on King Street in Martinsburg and the Shanghai Grocery.

- A man was charged with a late-October robbery in which more than $8,700 was taken from a Citizens National Bank in Martinsburg.

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