Crime

Copper wire thieves cause $50,000 in damage at vacant Tacoma hospital

Thieves who ripped hundreds of pounds of copper wire from the vacant Puget Sound Hospital in Tacoma caused about $50,000 in damages.

The maintenance supervisor at the former hospital at 3580 Pacific Ave. said the burglars entered the building from a stairwell and used a cart to move the wire off the premises.

“The detective also noted that in his years of experience he had not seen this level of care in removing wires,” according to court documents.

Five people were arrested Dec. 29 in connection with the theft after neighbors heard an explosion at the hospital and power went out to the neighborhood.

Officers stopped the five fleeing the area and found copper wire and pruning shears in a truck driven by one of the group.

Pierce County prosecutors have charged Stuart King, 49, and the driver of the truck; Steven Witkowski, 43; Karin Smith, 46; Norman Stansberry, 34; and Joseph Masters Jr., 28, with first-degree theft and second-degree burglary.

King, Smith and Stansberry face additional charges of first-degree trafficking in stolen property.

Stansberry pleaded not guilty and was ordered held in lieu of $50,000 bail. The others have not yet been arraigned. Prosecutors said they could face additional charges.

Prosecutors noted that Witkowski wrote on prior booking forms that he was a laborer for the electrical workers union.

Detectives found Smith’s fingerprints on an energy drink can found in the hospital basement. Receipts showed King, Stansberry and Smith sold more than 700 pounds of copper wire to local recycling and metal shops, according to court records.

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