Details released in four arrests related to cable theft investigation - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Details released in four arrests related to cable theft investigation

(Top L-R) Justin Carpenter, Douglas Pope. (Bottom L-R) Charla Burton, and Robert Johnson (courtesy of the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office)

CASPER, Wyo. — Documents released by the Natrona County Circuit Court have given details into the arrest of four people on varying charges related to an investigation into the theft of industrial copper cables.

The people arrested in the investigation include Charla Burton, age 33, Douglas Pope, age 48, Justin Carpenter, age 34, and Jana Carpenter, age 60.

A fifth suspect, Robert L. Johnson, is reportedly still at large and is being sought by the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office.

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Justin Carpenter faces three felony charges of Wrongful Taking or Disposing of Property, one charge of felony Theft, and one charge of Child Endangerment with Methamphetamine.

Jana Carpenter faces a single charge of Child Endangerment with Methamphetamine.

Charla Burton faces a single charge of felony Wrongful Taking or Disposing of Property.

Douglas Pope faces two felony charges of felony Wrongful Taking or Disposing of Property.

Two businesses in Natrona County and one in Carbon County were allegedly victims of the copper cable theft.

Sheriff’s Department officials say that the the investigation began on June 14, 2019, after an oilfield services company reported the theft of copper cable on the 3900 block of Can Do Avenue, in Natrona County.

Reporting parties said that approximately 500 feet of SOOW copper cable was cut from “skid houses” owned by the oilfield company. SOOW cable is described as a portable control cable that is designed for heavy-duty industrial use. The “skid houses” were described as a single wide type of living structure in the oilfield services industry.

In addition to the cable, two “Appleton plugs” were also missing from the wires cut from the skid houses. The plugs are used to connect SOOW cable from generators to the skid houses.

The total value of the missing cable and Appleton plugs was estimated at $1,500 to $2,000.

During the Sheriff’s Office investigation, it was learned that an adult female had completed a transaction at a Natrona County recycling company on June 12. The woman allegedly sold 500 feet of SOOW copper cable for a payout of approximately $670. The woman was identified by NCSO officials as Burton.

It was also observed that a section of fence near the oilfield company had been cut. Nearby investigators reported finding three sections of SOOW cable which displayed the same marking as the wire allegedly sold to the recycling company on June 12.

On July 2, 2019, the oilfield company again called Natrona County Deputies reporting the new theft of cable including SOOW and a cable described as “SEOW.”

Deputies indicate in an affidavit filed in Natrona County Circuit Court that the SEOW cable is an available replacement for SOOW cable, which is no longer being manufactured.

The affidavit goes on to say that on July 11, 2019, investigators obtained video surveillance from a local recycling company which shows two male subjects selling copper wire. The wire was described as having been stripped of the sheath and any identifying marks.

Using the video, Sheriff’s personnel say that they were able to identify the men as matching descriptions of Justin Carpenter and Douglas Pope.

On July 15, 2019, records show that another theft of copper cable was reported at a business on the 900 block of North Robertson Road. The business was identified as a provider of drill pipe and living quarters for the oil and gas industry.

During the Robertson Road theft, it was reported that approximately 600 feet of SEOW cable and two Appleton plugs were taken from the business. Investigators say that a yard where the cable was kept had a cut section of fence that was similar to the scene at Can Do Avenue.

The loss from the Robertson Road theft was estimated to be approximately $3,900.

Sheriff’s Office investigators say that through interviews they were able to confirm the identities of Pope and Carpenter. It was also indicated to investigators that Carpenter may be in possession of a large amount of copper wire.

Law enforcement officers made contact with Carpenter and another man, later identified as Johnson, while the two were in a vehicle travelling near the intersection of Blackmore Road and Southeast Wyoming Boulevard on July 17, 2019.

Deputies note that during the traffic stop, investigators observed seven spools of like-new copper wire were in the back of the vehicle that Carpenter was driving.

At the scene, Justin Carpenter said in an NCSO affidavit as denying any knowledge of stolen copper wire or the existence of copper wire inside of his home. It is then said that the suspect eventually admitted that there was copper wire stored inside of his garage, after he was told that law enforcement was going to execute a search warrant on the home.

NCSO officials go on to say that Justin Carpenter informed Sheriff’s personnel that he said the wire had come from a neighborhood near the Robertson Road Theft.

Carpenter is further described in the affidavit as saying that he heard “through the grapevine” that there was copper wire available to be “picked up”at the Robertson Road address.

Deputies say that Justin Carpenter admitted to trespassing on the property and collected wire which was previously cut and coiled up. According to the affidavit, Carpenter said that the business would not likely have given him permission to be on the property or to collect the wire, but also denied stealing any copper wire.

When asked about the copper wire in the vehicle, Justin Carpenter is said to have told investigators that he had purchased the spools in a “street deal,” for $300. Investigators indicate in the affidavit that Carpenter said that the seller “did not have a name.”

The vehicle was prepared to be towed from the scene and an inventory of the vehicle was conducted. Law enforcement reported finding a small jeweler’s baggie containing suspected methamphetamine in the vehicle. Justin Carpenter was reported to have denied knowledge of the substance, and indicated that it may have belonged to Johnson.

Johnson was also interviewed at the scene of the traffic stop. Johnson told investigators that he assisted Justin Carpenter in stripping the sheathing off of copper cable at Carpenter’s home on the 5400 block of South David Street in Casper. An affidavit filed in Justin Carpenter’s case says that Johnson told deputies that Carpenter was aware that they were being followed by law enforcement.

Johnson further indicated that Justin Carpenter had tried to conceal the suspected methamphetamine under the seat of the vehicle, prior to being pulled over.

Justin Carpenter and Johnson were released from the scene and are reported to have left on foot.

Later on the afternoon of July 17, a search warrant for Justin Carpenter’s home on South David Street was executed.

Law enforcement said that prior to law enforcement’s entry into the home, the house was under surveillance. During that time, officers say that they saw a woman, later identified as Jana Carpenter, exit the rear of the home and put a black bag into a trash can in the backyard of the home.

Moments later, Jana Carpenter was described as answering the door and apologizing to officers, telling them that she had mobility problems and was unable to immediately answer the door.

Jana Carpenter told law enforcement that she had received a call from Justin Carpenter, telling her that officers were on their way to execute a search warrant on the property.

NCSO officials say that Jana Carpenter was interviewed and eventually told investigators that she had taken items in a sack and placed the sack in the backyard trash can. Jana Carpenter indicated that she knew there was possible drug paraphernalia in the sack. She said that she did not want Justin Carpenter to get in trouble for possessing the items. Jana Carpenter is said to have told officers that she was informed of impending law enforcement presence, went into the garage, retrieved the sack, and placed the sack in the trash can outside.

During his initial appearance in court, Thursday, August 1, 2019, Justin Carpenter identified Jana Carpenter as his mother.

During the execution of a search warrant obtained to search for controlled substances on the property, it was reported that a pipe suspected for methamphetamine use was found in a bag inside the trash can.

The search of the home also yielded an estimated 1,278 feet of copper cable and wire. Sheriff’s officials say that tools that may be used in the stripping and sheathing of wires was also found. The affidavit says that most of the cable was consistent with the types of cable and wire taken from Robertson Road and Can Do Avenue.

Law enforcement also reported finding a type of cable different from the rest. The cable was described as being significantly larger in diameter than the other cables found.

It was also reported that items of drug paraphernalia were found inside the home. A juvenile was also identified as being a resident of the home.

Using evidence found in Justin Carpenter’s vehicle, deputies were able to identify the larger cable as having possible ties to a company that worked on several wind farm projects in the State of Wyoming.

The company was contacted and asked about the cable. Personnel at the company said that they were missing seven spools of grounding wire and several other large pieces of copper cable that were very thick in diameter. The larger cable was identified as 1250 wire, and was used as power cable for wind turbines.

The company said that they were not aware of the theft, until they were contacted by law enforcement.

On July 22, 2019, officials with the Natrona County Sheriff’s office were given a tip that the suspect Pope was at the Natrona County Detention Center after being arrested by Mills PD on an outstanding warrant.

Pope told investigators that he was with Justin Carpenter on July 2, when the two of them sold copper wire to a local recycling company. Pope is reported to have said that he had suspected the wire to be stolen but was not sure. Pope went on to tell officers that he felt he was in a position where he needed money, and decided to sell the wire even though it was not his.

Pope also denied any involvement in the theft of any of the copper wire.

Justin Carpenter, Jana Carpenter, and Burton were also eventually arrested and taken into the custody of the Natrona County Detention Center.

NCSO spokesperson Taylor Courtney says that the investigation remains open and is ongoing.

Law enforcement officials also say that Johnson remains at large and is wanted by the NCSO in connection with this case. He has further also been indicated as a wanted person by the Casper Police Department.

All of those cited or arrested are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law. Charges are subject to change following official filings from the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office. 

A booking photo for Jana Carpenter was not provided by the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, who cites juvenile involvement in the charge as a reason.

Photos supplied by the NCSO for Justin Carpenter were distributed with charges of Theft and Wrongful Taking or Disposing of Property. The Child Endangerment with Meth charge was not made public until after the release of the photo.