Man charged in veterans museum theft

PARKERSBURG – A Belleville man was arrested Friday morning for the theft of items earlier this week from the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley, authorities said.

Robert Lawrence Burdette, 61, was charged with petit larceny at the Parkersburg Police Department following an interview by a detective, Police Chief Joseph Martin said.

“During that interview, Burdette provided the stolen items from the Veterans Museum,” Martin said.

Museum director Gary Farris said he is pleased. Items taken were a World War I-era bayonet, a World War II-era chaplain’s cap and a World War II-era airborne military patch on Jan. 4.

“I am glad he was arrested,” Farris said. “He had apparently stolen something from someone before and the people didn’t press charges, so when I was asked if I wanted to press charges, I said ‘heck yes!'”

Farris said Burdette had asked him not to press charges because he has a wife and child.

“Just because he is married with a child or two does not mean he should not pay a price for what he did,” Farris said.

Burdette was arrested around 10 a.m. Friday following more than 24 hours of speculation as to when charges would be pressed after the items were surrendered to the police department Thursday morning.

After Burdette returned the items, he was interviewed by detectives which resulted in a warrant being filed for his arrest. At the time, Martin said Burdette could not be arrested without a warrant because the charge is a misdemeanor as the items stolen were worth less than $1,000.

Burdette was arraigned in Wood County Magistrate Court Friday morning before Magistrate Joe Kuhl and released on $1,000 bond. If convicted on this charge, he faces up to one year in jail and a fine up to $2,500.

Martin and Farris thanked the public for helping to identify Burdette as the suspect.

“We would not have caught him had it not been for the security system donated to us by the Wood County Commission,” Farris said. “Apparently the photo of (Burdette) was shared on Facebook about 800 times and by the newspaper and other media sharing it, we were able to get him.”

The Veterans Museum, at 1829 Seventh St., had the state-of-the art security system installed following a breaking and entering in December 2011 when bayonets and knives, several rifles, a pistol, battle dress uniforms, items from the gift shop and a Beretta recovered on Utah Beach during D-Day believed to have belonged to a German officer were stolen.