The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

June 25, 2012

Post-tornado looter draws prison term

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Jasper County judge sentenced an Arkansas woman to three years in prison Monday for stealing valuables from a home in Duquesne after the tornado on May 22, 2011.

Lynette Curry, 27, of Rogers, pleaded guilty March 26 to felony theft in a plea deal with the prosecutor’s office that dismissed counts of burglary and felony possession of a controlled substance. Circuit Judge David Dally assessed Curry the prison term at her sentencing hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The defendant and an alleged accomplice, Gary E. Wright, 35, of Rogers, were arrested in Duquesne three days after the tornado.

Jasper County sheriff’s deputies and Duquesne police stopped Wright for questioning when he was observed walking behind East Middle School wearing a backpack. He told officers that he was photographing tornado damage with the help of a friend driving a vehicle in the area, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

He was carrying a walkie-talkie, and had pliers, wrenches, binoculars, a flashlight and screwdrivers in the backpack, which officers suspected were burglary tools, the affidavit says. They also found a text message on his cellphone from someone dubbed “Fa la la la la la la” that read: “I’m in the corner house with the orange car we need to go I got everything we will ever need please come have a look out for so I can get out of here k,” according to the affidavit.

Officers later stopped a vehicle with Arkansas plates that was being driven by Curry. A search of the vehicle reportedly turned up a laptop computer, a duffel bag containing hundreds of pieces of jewelry and a bag of methamphetamine. Curry also had a walkie-talkie matching Wright’s in her possession and a cellphone that was confirmed to have sent the message to Wright, according to the affidavit.

The laptop and jewelry were determined to have been taken in a burglary earlier that day of Thomas Rhinehart’s tornado-damaged home in the 4100 block of East 24th Street.

Alleged accomplice

GARY WRIGHT, Lynette Curry’s alleged accomplice in the looting of a home in Duquesne three days after the May 22, 2011, tornado, has trial dates set for August. He is charged with burglary and felony theft.

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