Two arrested in connection with burglaries

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   Two former Carter County residents have been arrested and charged in connection with two home burglaries that occurred in the county last month.
   Benjamin Dwayne Lehman, 22, and Mark Lewis Smith, both now of West Virginia, have each been charged with two counts of aggravated burglary, one count of theft over $1,000 and one count of theft over $10,000. Smith was additionally served with outstanding warrants the Carter County Sheriff's Department held on him charging him with driving on a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to yield.
   Lehman and Smith were charged in connection with burglaries which occurred at the home of Erik McKeehan, 108 Joshua Lane and Harry Reagen, 144 Max Jett Rd. on the weekend of April 23-25.
   "The boys were living in Raleigh County, West Virginia," CCSD Investigator Laverne Julian said. "Both boys had originally at one time lived here and went to church here." Julian also said that Lehman and Smith knew McKeehan and Reagen.
   "On the weekend of the 23 (of April) they decided to come down from West Virginia and visit," Julian said. "When they got down here on that Friday is when they decided to do these burglaries."
   According to Juilan, Lehman and Smith first broke into the residence of McKeehan either late on the night of April 23 or in the early morning hours on April 24 and stole a gun safe which contained four rifles. The pair also stole clothing from the residence as well.
   "Erik saw them on the road he lives on that night as he was leaving. Then when he came home he found his home had been broken into," Julian said. "He named them as suspects."
   The next day, Lehman and Smith broke into Reagan's residence while he was at church and stole approximately $7,000 in cash, several items of jewelry, a lap top computer, a DVD player, an MP3 player and 10 rifles. The total value of the property stolen from Reagen's residence was approximately $24,000.
   "(CCSD) Sgt. Audrey Covington was on call that weekend and she went to the scene," Julian said. "She already had these two names (Lehman and Smith) from the break-in the night before and she mentioned their names to Reagen and he said he knew them and had went to church with them."
   Through the investigation and speaking with Lehman's father,  investigators were able to locate where the two men were staying in West Virginia and Julian drew up warrants on the pair charging them with the two burglaries. Julian then contacted the Raleigh County, W. Va. Sheriff's Department, informed them that Lehman and Smith were wanted for burglary and told them where the two could be found.
   "They (the Raleigh County W.Va. Sheriff's Department) told me they had about a 30-minute standoff with them (Lehman and Smith)," Julian said. That was mainly negotiations. There were no shots fired."
   After Lehman and Smith surrendered to officers following the standoff on May 2, they were taken into custody and waived extradition. Julian said that he and CCSD Lt. Forest Sharpe went to West Virginia, picked up Lehman and Smith and returned them to the Carter County Jail on Monday.
   So far, according to Julian, nine of the firearms stolen in the break-ins have been recovered along with all of the jewelry and approximately $2,700 in cash. "They admitted to selling some of the guns so we probably will not be able to get those back," Julian said. Lehman and Smith advised investigators of the locations of some of the other items stolen from the residences which have not yet been recovered. Julian said he hopes that more of the property will be recovered in the near future.
   "When I got the boys back here they were real cooperative. They admitted to both burglaries," Julian said. "They both admitted that drugs were the main factor behind committing both of these burglaries."
   Carter County Sheriff John Henson said that he is proud of the work that investigators from his department have done in being able to solve the burglaries. "They have done a tremendous job tracking these guys down," Henson said. "At least we have been able to get some of the property back for these people."