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Trio faces charges in foiled copper caper

Three county men have been arrested in North Carolina on charges related to the larceny of a quantity of copper pipe from a construction site in Durham County, according to officials with the Iredell County N.C. Sheriff’s Office.

Charged in connection with the copper theft are Johnny Ray Whitlow, 38, Shelton Road, South Boston, Randall Lee Norton, 39, Sandy Beach Road, South Boston, and Andrew Norman Epps, 33, Chatham Road, Halifax.

Iredell County deputies responded to I-40 west at the 141-mile marker Sunday to assist North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Steve Ellis with a suspicious vehicle stop, according to Iredell County Sheriff Phillip H. Redmond.

Deputy Derrick Stutts arrived to help Trooper Ellis who had stopped to assist the occupants of a truck that had overheated and had been forced to stop in the interstate, Redmond said. The occupants of the truck were identified as Whitlow and Norton.

Trooper Ellis and Deputy Stutts found a large amount of copper pipe in the bed of the truck and questioned the two South Boston men about it, the sheriff said.

Whitlow and Norton told the officers that a friend had sold it to them, and they were going to a family member’s house near Gatlinburg, Tenn., Redmond said.

Deputy Stutts contacted the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office and spoke with Investigator J. D. Clay, obtaining information on Whitlow and Norton, and after further investigation and interviews with the two men, Deputy Stutts learned the copper possibly came from a job site in Durham County where Norton’s friend worked, the sheriff said.

Deputy Stutts contacted Climate Control, Inc. in South Boston to determine if the copper found in Whitlow and Norton’s truck had been stolen from the company’s Durham County job site, Redmond said.

At the time of the vehicle stop, officials at Climate Control could not verify that the copper pipe had been taken from the company’s job site. Deputy Stutts seized the copper and placed Whitlow and Norton under arrest, charging them with transportation of copper, the sheriff explained. The two South Boston men were held under a $2,500 secured bond, he added.

Sheriff Redmond assigned Detective Lt. W. E. Jenkins to further investigate the case, and he learned the copper had been stolen from a school construction site in Durham County.

According to reports filed with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, approximately $8,000 worth of new copper pipe had been stolen from the job site, Jenkins said.

Durham County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Epps, an employee of Climate Control, charging him with injury to personal property and felony larceny, according to Durham County Sheriff’s Detective Jeff Smith.

Epps was later released on a $10,000 secured bond, Smith said.

Durham County deputies also obtained warrants on Whitlow and Norton for felony possession and receiving stolen property, Smith said.

Iredell County Sheriff’s deputies served the warrants on the two men for the Durham County Sheriff’s Office, and each was held on an additional $10,000 secured bond on these new charges, Detective Jenkins said.

The stolen copper pipe recovered by Deputy Stutts, valued at an estimated $2,900, was returned to Climate Control, Jenkins explained.
The investigation is continuing, he added.