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Two men charged in 2002 theft at Martinsburg grocery store

June 02, 2007

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Authorities believe they have solved the Christmas Eve 2002 theft of about $56,800 in cash, checks and food stamps from Weis Market in Martinsburg, thanks to an e-mailed, anonymous tip received last month.

Former store employees Jason Wayne Butts, 27, of 542 Mesquite Lane, and Robert James Suchman, 54, of 740 Boy Scout Road, both were arraigned Thursday on charges of grand larceny and breaking and entering by Berkeley County Magistrate Jim Humphrey, according to court records.

Arrest warrants were issued Tuesday for the Hedgesville, W.Va., area men after West Virginia State Police Capt. Rob Blair forwarded an anonymous tip to the Martinsburg Police Department and then to Patrolman Q.D. Burner, who investigated the theft.

Martinsburg Police Department Detective Sgt. G.B. Swartwood said Friday he assisted Burner with obtaining a videotaped confession from Butts on May 24.

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"Mr. Butts initially denied having any involvement with this crime," Burner said in his complaint against the two men. "However, after further questioning, Mr. Butts confessed to committing the crime and that Robert Suchman assisted him by leaving the store unlocked."

Though employed as night stocker at the store when the theft happened, Suchman was not directly implicated in the crime until December 2004, when an individual who was applying for a government job notified store security he knew the accused was involved, according to Burner's complaint.

"The subject advised that he was obtaining a government job and knew that they would polygraph him, so he wanted to come forth with information regarding Suchman so he would pass" the examination, Burner said.

During his interview with police, Butts indicated he entered the unlocked front door of the store at 1102 N. Queen St. and took moneybags out of the safe and buried them, according to Burner's complaint.

Burner said Butts told police he didn't know how much money he had when he gave it to Suchman about a week after he took it, but said his share was about $1,000. Butts had been terminated from his job at the store prior to the break-in, and Suchman was described as a former employee when implicated in 2004, police were told.

Burner said he also was made aware that Butts was familiar with the combination to the safe, and had been inside the store's video surveillance room before the break-in. Burner said when he arrived to investigate the theft, which was discovered on Dec. 26, 2002, the surveillance tape had been removed from the surveillance equipment.

Swartwood said none of the money was recovered, and noted that the agency's investigation was complicated by the fact that several people had access to the store at the time of the incident.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 14.

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