Break-in sentencing put on hold

MARIETTA – The Thursday sentencing for a Beverly man accused of breaking into the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Beverly in November was postponed until the organization can come up with a complete restitution figure, which could top $7,000.

Robert J. Wells, 32, of 2535 State Route 83, pleaded guilty Aug. 2 to fifth-degree felony counts of breaking and entering and theft for the Nov. 25 break-in, during which he damaged doors and other equipment in the social club. He also made off with a safe and its contents.

“I have a letter here from the Eagles saying they would like the defendant to replace what he stole and fix what he broke,” said Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane.

However, the only restitution figure was $725 to replace a damaged door. According to the police report, Wells also stole around $6,400 by breaking into coin-operated machines and taking the safe.

“There’s been a change in leadership at the Eagles, and they are still working to get estimates on everything,” said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Jared Erb.

Fingerprints found in the club led to Wells’ arrest in April. He admitted to the theft and told the officers from the Beverly Police Department that he had used the money to purchase heroin, said Erb.

“He claims that there was someone else with him, but there’s no evidence that anyone else was with him,” he said.

Because Wells’ crime was fueled by drug addiction, he would be a good candidate for the SEPTA Correctional Facility, said his attorney Nancy Brum.

“We’re asking he do 30, 60, 90 days in jail and then take the first bed available at SEPTA,” she said.

However, Wells had never secured the necessary doctor’s release to enter the program, Lane said.

Lane suggested rescheduling the sentencing so that the Eagles had more time to come up with an exact restitution estimate and Wells could secure the release he needed for possible admittance into SEPTA.

However, Lane warned he might not sentence Wells to SEPTA regardless if he gets a release.

“I very well may send him to prison,” he said.

While Wells has never been to prison, he is prison eligible because of a previous felony conviction, Lane said.

Brum offered to have Wells’ probation officer from Morgan County come to the rescheduled sentencing to testify as to his success on probation. However, Lane said a letter would suffice.

Wells’ adult criminal record stems back to 2001, with drug possession and drunk driving charges and includes previous convictions for theft, breaking and entering, receiving stolen property, and theft of a firearm, said Erb.

The two felony charges are allied, meaning Wells can ultimately only be sentenced on one or the other. Either carries the same maximum one-year prison sentence.

Wells sentencing was rescheduled for 8 a.m. Oct 1.