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Four Charged With Breaking Into Building in Wheeling

Several people face felony charges after allegedly being found breaking into a building and pilfering the contents, apparently consisting of holiday decorations and figurines.

On May 16, Wheeling police checked on the property on Market Street, where the owner had received messages saying unknown people were taking things out of the rear of the building. The caller told police he was following the people on foot heading toward Chapline Street.

The three people were identified as John Wagoner, 39, of Wheeling; John Wayne Bittinger, 55, of Weirton; and Amanda Humes, 41, of Wheeling. A fourth woman, Pamela Bell, 34, of Wheeling, shortly after later approached police and said she’d left her cellphone in the building.

According to police reports, the caller said he’d spoken to one of the men, claiming that “Chris” had paid the four of them $50 to clear out the building. He told police none of them had been given permission to do so, and that “Chris” did not exist. He added that the building was formerly an appliance store and a Christmas store prior to that.

Police say the building showed signs of forced entry, with a strike plate bent out of position. Several items of merchandise and their tags were allegedly stacked on the patio by the door. Inside, police say there were signs that the building had been inhabited, including a mattress, sleeper sofa, a tent, and extension cords.

Further inside, police say several boxes had been ripped open, with their contents — holiday decorations and porcelain holiday figurines — stacked nearly near the wall. A bicycle was also found, with several pieces hacked off with an angle grinder. The bike had been spray-painted black; it was originally green and white, and had allegedly been reported stolen by the Health Plan and the city parks and recreation department. Bell’s phone was also allegedly found.

The witness who initially contacted the owner to alert him of the break-in told police that people had been loading boxes into an SUV in the alley nearby. The SUV was unable to be located.

Each of the four was arrested and charged with breaking and entering a building other than a residence, a felony. Each remains lodged at the Northern Regional Jail in lieu of $5,000 bond. Their preliminary hearings were set for Friday.

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