2 accused of copper theft at Abitibi

Gary Spradlin mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Gary Spradlin mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
James Roy mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
James Roy mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Investigator Tom Matthews
Investigator Tom Matthews

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - By Whitney Grunder - email

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - A weeks-long investigation into copper theft at the old Abitibi plant has netted the arrest of two men.

In the seven years since the plant shut down, it has been stripped of copper. The thefts have only recently grown bolder.

Sunday, several thousand dollars in copper wire, were stolen from the old mill, according to authorities.

"The majority of it was copper, copper wiring, copper tubing as well as brass fitting, some tools," said Site Manager, Delton Smith.

According to Lt. Pete Cooper, the Angelina County Sheriff's Office had been keeping a close eye on the plant, located on State Highway 103 East. Sunday, they found a suspicious person on the property. When they went to question him, he hid from them and deputies could not find him. However, they were able to confiscate his pickup truck and review surveillance photos, which helped them identify suspect Gary Luther Spradlin Jr., 28, of Killeen.

"You can see him coming and going and pulling copper from the mill," said Investigator Tom Matthews with the Angelina County Sheriff's Office.  "Abitibi is working very hard to make this stop, obviously because it's costing them a lot of money."

Deputies were able to locate and arrest Spradlin Tuesday. Det. Matthews said a second suspect, James Calvin Roy, 44, of Lufkin, who is presently serving in the Rusk County Jail, will be served with a warrant.

"Breeches were along fenced areas. We know where they came in at. There was evidence of that," said Smith, who explained his priority is keeping thieves out, in part, for their own well-being. "The area is under surveillance, we do have camera systems in place, we do have extra security on site, but most importantly we don't want to have anyone hurt."

Smith says it's dangerous. Some of the equipment is still energized so when thieves come in not knowing which circuits are active, they're putting themselves at a huge risk of being hurt or even killed.

Despite the new warning, authorities, say they'll be watching, and waiting.

Both suspects are charged with felony theft of copper. Roy is also charged with burglary of a building.

Matthews said there are other suspects in the case. The investigation is on-going.

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