Metal theft wrought with frustration (Aug. 21, 2011)
An alleged copper thief was caught red-handed in the basement of a historic Victorian house in Olde Town Wednesday, thanks to vigilant local residents and a deputy's sharp eye.
Terry Owen Fish, Jr., 43, of Conyers was arrested and charged with burglary and possession of tools for the commission of a crime.
He was found at 951 Railroad Street, a sprawling Victorian house that had been the location of many entities, including Michaelangelo's restaurant and a funeral parlor. It was the family home of two early prominent Rockdale families - the Almands in the 1800s and then the Manns during the early part of the 20th century. It remained empty for at least the past year after Sharon's Southern Cuisine closed.
Around midnight on Wednesday, Jan. 9, Rockdale County Sheriff's Office deputies received information that a business near the Whistlepost Tavern was being burglarized, according to an RCSO report.
Upon arriving, they walked around the building at 951 Railroad Street, next to the Whistlepost, and noticed an access door for the crawl space under the building with a wire looped over the latch. "The wire looked out of place and it appeared to be used to shut the access door and pull the latch over from inside," wrote the reporting deputy.
"I opened the access door and just inside the doorway there was a red backpack that was full of cut and bent copper pipe... I also observed fresh footprints in the dust on a ledge and other copper pipes that had been cut and were laying in the crawl space."
The deputy went into the crawl space. "I observed fresh marks in the dust leading towards the back of the business and then heard several sounds come from somewhere under the business."
While several other deputies secured the perimeter, the deputy followed the tracks deeper into the crawl space. He found another bag, a black duffle bag, with rolled copper wire, two pairs of pliers and a screw driver that had been recently used and looked suitable for cutting wire.
The deputy announced his presence and continued into the crawl space. "I had to belly crawl to reach the very back of the business where I observed a white male laying on his stomach.
"Once I confronted the male, he complied with my orders to crawl to me and I checked him for weapons."
The male, later identified as Terry Owen Fish Jr., was found with a box cutter in his right back pocket.
Fish and the deputy came out of the crawl space and Fish was taken into custody.
"Mr. Fish stated he was a 'scrapper' and he stated the red bag was already in the crawl space when he arrived but he had put in his cell phone and some other items in it."
However, the suspect did not say why he was under the house at 951 Railroad Street.