With the rise in prices for copper, Arkansas, as well as the rest of the country, has experienced a rash of copper thefts. Even rural areas of Arkansas are not immune as Izard County has seen a string of copper thefts recently.
So far three suspects have been arrested and one remains at large in connection to separate thefts.
Authorities said Travis H. Hutson, 29, of Franklin received stolen copper wire from Jason Clouse, 30, and Melody Shaver, 29, of Franklin on June 23. Clouse and Shaver asked Hutson to sell the wire for them, according to authorities.
On June 23 a building used by Wallace Tower, located off Highway 56 in Franklin, was broken into sometime during the night. Four hundred feet of copper wire on spools, valued at $1,000, was stolen, authorities said.
Independence County Sheriff's Department alerted Izard County authorities that Hutson was at an Independence County recycling center trying to sell a large amount of copper wire on spools. Authorities contacted the owner of Wallace Towers, Wesley Wallace, who traveled to the recycling center and positively identified the spools of wire as those stolen from his business, according to authorities.
Shaver allegedly drove Clouse and Hutson to Franklin Furnace near Wallace Towers and dropped them off. A short time later she picked them up and took them to her residence where she helped unload the spools of copper wire and moved them to Hutson's vehicle, according to authorities.
Authorities arrested Clouse June 27 and charged him with theft by receiving, a class C felony. Clouse posted bond of $5,000 and was released from the Izard County Detention Facility July 1.
Hutson is facing the same charges in Independence County stemming from the theft, said Capt. Bill Lindsey of the Independence County Sheriff's Department. Hutson is currently in the Independence County Jail, Lindsey said.
Both men are scheduled to appear in Izard County Circuit Court July 24 for a hearing.
Authorities arrested Shaver July 14. She faces the same charges as Hutson and Clouse. She posted bond in the amount of $5,000 and was released from the Izard County Detention Facility.
At least three incidents of copper theft have been reported in Izard County during the past month, Izard County Sheriff Tate Lawrence said. In most instances, the thefts have occurred at construction or remodeling sites, he said.
Lawrence said the thieves take metals, copper wire or copper tubing to a scrap yard and sell it for a fraction of the real value.
Charges are currently being filed against an unnamed suspect in connection with thefts of copper wire in the Wideman area, Lawrence said. He said an arrest is likely to be soon.
Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger said there have also been copper thefts in Fulton County. He said the thefts are currently under investigation.
Copper theft has been on the rise in Arkansas since the price of copper went up to $4 per pound in May, which is double 2005's price. According to a Southwestern Electric Power Company spokesman, some thieves are even cutting into power lines and other energized equipment which has caused fatalities in Kentucky and British Columbia.