Parkersburg man sentenced for theft of bus batteries

MARIETTA – A Parkersburg man who stole nearly $8,000 worth of bus batteries from Frontier Local Schools near the end of the 2011 school year was sentenced Wednesday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to 90 days in the Washington County Jail.

Thomas E. Fellure Jr., 31, broke into the school district’s bus garage, at 44870 Ohio 7, New Matamoras, on June 15, 2011 and stole 50 bus batteries, lead cables and a couple of catalytic converters from other district vehicles stored there.

Fellure sold at least some of the more than 4,000 pounds of materials at a Mineral Wells recycling center. According to receipts, Fellure fetched $348 for just over 1,000 pounds worth of batteries.

During his Sept. 9 change of plea hearing, Fellure had been ordered to pay $7,726 in restitution to Frontier Local Schools. However, that amount was lowered Wednesday because insurance had covered much of the cost of replacement batteries for the district.

“At the change of plea, we weren’t aware of how much the insurance had paid. Unfortunately, the court can’t order restitution to be paid back to the insurance company,” said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Jared Erb.

Fellure was ordered to pay $674 to the school district – $500 to cover its deductible and the rest to cover the payroll used for battery installation in the 21 buses left inoperable by Fellure’s theft.

The insurance company has the option to sue Fellure in civil court for the money, said Erb.

Soon after selling the batteries, Fellure scrapped his 1997 Chevy Blazer, which he had used during the theft. However, video surveillance at the bus garage had caught Fellure’s vehicle on camera and it was able to be traced back to him even after he sold it.

He was arrested in December 2011 for the crime.

Fellure was sentenced Wednesday on one count of grand theft and one count of vandalism – both elevated from fifth-degree felonies to fourth-degree felonies because the amount stolen and vandalized exceeded the $7,500 threshold.

Fellure pleaded guilty as charged to the two fourth-degree felonies.

According to an agreed disposition, Fellure was to be sentenced to 90 days in the county jail. However, Fellure asked to postpone his entrance into the jail.

“I would just like to spend the weekend with my daughter for her birthday and go in Monday,” Fellure said.

Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth quickly shot down the idea.

“We’re not going to do that,” he said simply.

Fellure’s attorney Eric Fowler also argued for more days credit than agreed on at the change of plea hearing. At that time, Burnworth had indicated Fellure would receive credit for two days served.

However, Fellure had been held on the Washington County charges in Mason County, W.Va., prior to being sent to the Washington County Jail, said Fowler.

“We believe he should have credit for 40 days,” he said.

Burnworth agreed to change the credit. Additionally, he sentenced Fellure to three years of community control and ordered him to be assessed by L&P Services and to apply for the court’s “Thinking For A Change” program, a cognitive behavioral change program developed by The National Institute of Corrections.