Pair of shoes leads to questioning, arrest

EAST PALESTINE — It was a pair of shoes that led police to question a local man about several break-ins in town and that ultimately led to charges filed against him.

Richard P. Smith, 29, Lyons Avenue, is accused of breaking into a home on East High Street and the Rockenberger Auto Parts store, and attempting to break into Cozza’s Pizza.

East Palestine Police Chief Kevin Dickey said his officers were following up leads on several break-in reports from March 29 and April 3 that led to the Lyons Avenue home.

Police were originally investigating Logan L. Winters, 21, Lyons Avenue, in connection with the break-ins, and that is where they came across Smith, since the two both live there, he said.

“When the officers were there Smith came out and they noticed the shoes were the same. The shoe prints were the same as what was left at the scenes,” Dickey explained, adding that when police called Smith in for questioning they were able to match the prints to the shoes he was wearing.

According to the police affidavit filed with the Columbiana County Municipal Court, a shoe print was left on a pool heater at the East High Street home of Eric Pence on March 29. The same print was also found on the door of Cozza’s pizza on Walnut Street.

Smith allegedly was able to enter Pence’s home and took a wallet that contained $50, along with credit cards and a purse with additional credit cards and less than $25. He reportedly was unable to gain entry into Cozza’s Pizza after attempting to kick in the door.

According to the affidavit, Smith also allegedly pushed in an air conditioner to get inside Rockenberger Auto Parts on East Martin Street and once inside took $90 from the cash register.

Winters is accused of being an accomplice to the crimes. Allegedly, Winters drove Smith to Pence’s home and served as a lookout, and picked him back up after he left the home. She also allegedly drove Smith to Rockenberger’s and served as a lookout.

Winters also reportedly helped Smith dispose of stolen property in a creek bed in Darlington Township, Pa. on April 6.

Those items were recovered by Pennsylvania state police after a man walking along the creek bed came across them and notified them, Dickey said.

He also said that Smith has an “extensive” record for breaking and entering in West Virginia.

Smith has no prior criminal record in Columbiana County and Winters’ record in this county only consists of two minor traffic violations.

Smith is charged with burglary and breaking and entering, attempted breaking and entering, and tampering with evidence. Winters is charged with tampering with evidence and two counts complicity to burglary.

They appeared in municipal court Thursday and preliminary hearings were set for April 18 for both. Bonds were both set at $50,000 cash/surety.

“This was just some really good, solid police work from my officers. There was a number of officers involved in this investigation. They all did a wonderful job. That was hard work,” Dickey said.

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