Theft and drug cases in court

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — A pair accused of the theft of nearly $300,000 remain set for trial next year, while a car thief was given the maximum sentence Monday.

Keith Dwayne Baratie Sr., of Bellaire, and his wife, Karen Sue Ellen Neff, 48, of Powhatan Point, appeared before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra. They were the caretakers of the Belmont Memorial Park cemetery, now each accused of one count of forgery, one count of aggravated theft and one count of securing writing by deception. The third-degree felonies occurred Jan. 1, 2013.

No plea agreement was reached in either case. Neff’s trial date remains set for Jan. 15, and Baratie’s at Feb. 7.

Securing writing by deception means that someone is accused of tricking someone else into writing anything that disposes of or puts a restriction on property, or forces them into a financial obligation. It is alleged that they accepted a check for oil and gas money to the tune of $282,000 that was earmarked for the cemetery and converted it to their own use.

In another matter, Richard Kyle Furmanski, 29, of 1797 Belmont St., Bellaire, was given a sentence of 18 months for theft. The fourth-degree felony occurred Sept. 10. Charges stem from an incident in Shadyside where he stole a vehicle and cut it up for parts to sell for drug money. The prosecution has not been able to reach the victim for information for the purpose of restitution.

Vavra reviewed Furmanski’s record, which includes convictions of robbery; theft; and criminal trespassing, as well as a pattern of drug and alcohol abuse and what the judge said was a lack of remorse.

“You indicated that you simply had no idea what you had even done that day … Stealing a car and cutting it up to sell the parts for your drug habit. You have to be taken off the streets for as long as I possibly can to protect the public from you.”

Thomas J. Smith, 35, was given one more chance when he was sentenced for two counts of possession of drugs. The fifth-degree felony occurred Jan. 18, 2016. He had entered drug court, but was unsuccessful after findings of non-compliance. Vavra imposed a community control sentence of 16 months. A violation will result in 24 months in prison.

Defense asked Vavra to consider his efforts to reform, and that family issued contributed to his continued drug use.

“I just want to apologize,” he said. “I had every intention on graduating drug court.”

Vavra pointed out his prior record, including theft, driving under suspension and drug possession.

“He is either unwilling or unable to control his addiction, which has now resulted in this felony conviction,” Vavra said. “I don’t know if I’ve done you any favors or not. Good luck to you.”

Edward E. Turney Jr., 37, of 71410 Hall St., St. Clairsville, was sentenced to two years of community controls for possession of drugs. The fifth-degree felony occurred Sept. 30. He will serve six months in jail and six months in the Eastern Ohio Correction Center. A violation could result in 12 months in prison. Vavra reviewed his record, pointing out Turney’s pattern of substance abuse.

Steven Robert Dyer, 36, incarcerated until Dec. 9, no other address available, was arraigned and pleaded innocent to complicity to convey drugs into a correctional institution. The third-degree felony occurred Nov. 1, 2016. His pre-trial was set for Dec. 10, with plea agreement Feb. 4 and trial March 14. His bond upon release was set at $10,000.

A companion case, Anthony Lamar Williams, 41, incarcerated, was arraigned on an identical charge occurring Nov. 1, 2016. His pre-trial was set for Jan. 7, with plea agreement hearing Feb. 4 and trial March 12.