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Boonsboro man who stole items from blacksmith is sentenced

Records: Michael Allen Crouse was caught in the act during second break-in

August 13, 2010|By DON AINES

A Boonsboro man who stole firearms and tools from one blacksmith and tried to sell them to another was sentenced Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree burglary.

Michael Allen Crouse, 46, of 507 Orchard Manor Drive, was caught in the act when he broke into the victim's home a second time, according to court records.

Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. sentenced Crouse to 20 years in prison, but suspended 12 of those years, court records show.

In exchange for Crouse's plea, two counts of theft, two counts of malicious destruction of property, one count of theft scheme of $1,000 to $10,000 and seven other burglary charges were dismissed.

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Crouse and his wife, Shelly Louise Barnhart, went to the Old National Pike home of Luther Zimmerman on Jan. 29 and offered to sell him a Japanese bolt-action infantry rifle and a Soviet-era military rifle, according to the statement of probable cause filed by Maryland State Police. Zimmerman agreed to buy the weapons for $100, the statement said.

Crouse asked Zimmerman if he wanted to buy a chain saw and other tools, and Crouse and Barnhart returned Jan. 31, when Zimmerman bought the items for $150, the statement said.

Zimmerman told police that Crouse told him he had been helping clean out the home of a Frederick County blacksmith who recently died, the statement said. Crouse offered to sell Zimmerman anvils and other items at scrap metal prices, the statement said. Zimmerman told Crouse he was willing to pay more for the items, the statement said.

Zimmerman told police he knew all the blacksmiths in the area and could not understand why anyone would sell the tools at scrap metal prices, the statement said.

The next day, Zimmerman went to see another blacksmith, Wallace Yater, and took with him the chain saw he bought from Crouse, according to court records. Yater identified the chain saw as his, and later identified the rifles as his, the statement of probable cause said.

On Feb. 1, police were on their way to Yater's home on Mousetown Road to investigate when they were notified by Zimmerman and Yater that Crouse and Barnhart were breaking into Yater's home, the statement said. They and another man, identified as Daniel Eugene Bowers, fled in separate pickup trucks, which police stopped on Cool Hollow Road, the statement said.

The trucks were filled with blacksmith tools and metal, the statement said. Two other firearms stolen from Yater were found at Crouse's home, the statement said.

Barnhart, 47, is scheduled to appear Wednesday in Washington County District Court. She is charged with four counts of theft and one count of theft scheme of $1,000 to $10,000, court records show.

Bowers, 26, of Hagerstown, pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and is serving a two-year prison sentence, Assistant State's Attorney Christopher McCormack said.

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