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3 teens charged in summer thefts

The boys were bored last summer and robbed two churches and a youth sports complex, the Sheriff's Office says.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 2001


LUTZ -- A trio of teenage boys has been charged with a series of high-profile burglaries in Lutz.

The boys are accused of burglarizing two churches, Lutz Elementary School and a concession building at the Oscar Cooler Youth Sports Complex, all last summer.

Stolen items include musical equipment from the churches, computer equipment from the elementary school and Ring Pops and other candy at the ballpark, said Hillsborough County sheriff's Detective Kat Poynter, who investigated the cases.

Poynter said the thieves entered unlocked doors at the two churches, First Baptist Church of Lutz on U.S. 41 and Congregation of Yahweh on Crenshaw Lake Road. They sprayed the concession stand and two classrooms at the elementary school with fire extinguishers, she said.

The haul from First Baptist included a guitar, amplifier, mixing board, video camera and laptop computer, she said.

"They had so much they had to come back a second time," Poynter said.

She said much of the equipment was sold to unidentified adults who had heard about it and came to the mobile-home park where two of the boys lived.

The case warmed up several months ago when Poynter investigated one of the three for a bicycle theft, and suspected he was involved in other crimes. Eventually, the 15-year-old boy described the incidents, she said.

"Obviously, for a number of months now, he has been totally out of control," said the boy's mother.

"He certainly has been taught better," she said. "There's just so much peer pressure, so much media, video games, TV. Parents just have no influence."

Neither the parents nor the boys are being named because the suspects are juveniles.

The vandalism at the Lutz Leaguerett concession building was one of a series of attacks at the park. It spawned increasing frustration among the concessions workers, parents and grandparents of the softball players.

The fire extinguishers left a fine powder that billowed into clouds when swept. People cleaning it up had to wear masks.

"I hope that they understand what they have done," said Jeff Tetlow, who was Leaguerett president at the time. "I'm sad that they've gotten in that position, and I'm sad that they didn't find other outlets to expend their energy."

Youth sports would have been a good alternative, he suggested.

Poynter said the two 15-year-olds and the 14-year-old gave detailed statements to her. They were arrested Wednesday, although one already was jailed on prior charges. The trio is being investigated for more incidences of burglary and vandalism, Poynter said.

She said they were bored, restless and staying up late at night. "They had time on their hands."

-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469 or coats@sptimes.com.

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