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Man wanted in break-ins chased down by police

March 22, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Berkeley County man sought in connection with breaking-and-enterings at several businesses in recent weeks was caught by police Tuesday evening after a vehicle and foot pursuit that began on U.S. 11 north of Martinsburg and ended in an apple orchard near Hedgesville, W.Va.

Ronald Dale "Georgie" Whetzel, 37, of 4379 Shepherdstown Road, Martinsburg, was arraigned Wednesday by Berkeley County Magistrate Harry L. Snow on three counts of breaking and entering, three counts of conspiracy, two counts of grand larceny and one count of obstructing an officer, court records show.

Snow set Whetzel's bond at $165,000.

Whetzel was captured after he was chased by police on foot in an apple orchard near Laurel Ridge subdivision, records show.

West Virginia State Police Trooper J.S. Chumley said in his complaint that he and Trooper J.D. Burkhart joined the pursuit of Whetzel at Ridge Road South after learning Berkeley County Sheriff's Department deputies were chasing a red Dodge truck about 7:32 p.m.

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Sheriff's Deputy Cpl. Chris McCulley minutes earlier had found Whetzel and an unnamed accomplice in the break-ins riding in a Dodge truck on U.S. 11 near the Berkeley Station 7-Eleven convenience store, records state.

After attempting to stop the vehicle, police said the truck turned on to Mid-Atlantic Parkway and began traveling at a high rate of speed, before eventually turning onto W.Va. 9, then left onto Stribling Road and right onto Welltown Road.

About a half-mile further, police said the truck turned in to a farm field, ran over a cattle fence and traveled into Apple Noll subdivision.

There, police said the truck attempted to avert McCulley by traveling into a residential yard and destroying a mailbox, then turned onto Dry Run Road and then Ridge Road South, where Burkhart deployed spike strips to flatten the truck's tires near Federal Hill subdivision.

With one tire beginning to deflate, the vehicle turned into the orchard and wrecked into some trees, police said.

Whetzel and the driver of the truck fled from the vehicle, while a man who stayed behind was detained on a charge unrelated to the break-ins, authorities said.

Whetzel was apprehended by deputies Ryan Davis and Chad Jones about 200 yards from the vehicle, police said.

The driver of the truck was not caught and was at-large Wednesday, police said.

Whetzel and the unnamed accomplice allegedly broke into The Underground Lounge at 9557 Winchester Ave., on March 1 and stole an ATM machine, police said.

Police allege that same day Whetzel and an accomplice broke into Murphy's Shell station and convenience store in Hedgesville, W.Va., and stole 30 cartons of Marlboro cigarettes.

Police said Whetzel and an accomplice broke into a Marlowe, W.Va., convenience store Feb. 27 and stole 40 cartons of cigarettes.

The sheriff's department said in a news release that Whetzel is identified in surveillance footage recorded at several of the victimized businesses.

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