Prosecutors say DNA left on Gatorade bottles led them to two men suspected in the largest known metal theft in Washington state.
Donald Howard Turpin, 54, and Lee Russell Skelly, 44, are accused of stealing 4.3 miles of copper wiring from the Sound Transit Light Rail System between November 2010 through August of 2011.
Stealing miles of copper wire must be hard work, because it was the defendants' Gatorade bottles left at the scene which ultimately was their undoing, said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.
Prosecutors say the two men allegedly committed the theft by entering maintenance hatches in a tunnel that runs below the light rail between the SeaTac and Rainer Beach Rail Stations. They would enter at night and remove the copper wire. They allegedly dropped the wire through air vents and then drove along the line, picking up the cut wire at various locations.
Evidence gathered by King County Sheriff's Detectives shows that the men allegedly took the wire to various scrap metal recycling businesses in King County and sold the metal. Turpin had a state issued business license which would allow him to scrap the metal with little if any scrutiny by the buyers.
Both men are charged with Burglary Second Degree and Trafficking in Stolen Property First Degree. Turpin is also charged with Theft First Degree with a special sentencing aggravator.
If convicted as charged, the sentence range for Turpin is 63 to 84 months in prison. Skelly faces up to one year in jail.