Police: 13-year-old heads on crime spree

BEDFORD – A Riddlesburg 13-year-old, reportedly named in as many as 10 ongoing criminal cases, took two teenage friends on an early-morning crime spree May 25 in a stolen car, allegedly driving as far as Johnstown in search of illegal drugs, police said.

The teen – charged earlier this week for the alleged May 18 theft of his grandmother’s car – met with two friends a week later in Manns Choice in search of another vehicle, police said.

Around 3 a.m. on May 25, the 13-year-old and his friends, a 14-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, allegedly stole a 2002 Ford Explorer belonging to a pastor at the Manns Choice Church of God, state Trooper Matthew Bonin said.

The keys had been left in the car, Bonin said.

The 13-year-old allegedly smashed the car into a portable toilet at the borough’s community center before turning onto State Route 31, Bonin said in a report. There, he ran over two residents’ mailboxes, police said.

“Those [crashes] were all intentional,” Bonin said Friday.

Turning onto Milligans Cove Road north of Manns Choice, the teenager allegedly stopped to steal a license plate from a parked 1997 Mercury Sable. He swapped the Explorer’s plate with the new one, Bonin said, to avoid police attention if the theft was reported by dispatchers.

Driving along Route 30, the teen stopped at a Shell gas station and tried to break in, prying open a back door and smashing windows, police said.

“After failing to break into the Shell station, the 13-year-old male drove the stolen vehicle to Johnstown attempting to buy drugs,” police said in a report.

That’s a 39-mile, roughly hour-long drive along Route 56.

Bonin said the trio had contacts in Johnstown from whom they’d sought illegal drugs. Police later said they found no drugs in the teens’ possession.

En route back to Bedford, the teens allegedly abandoned the stolen car on a dirt road near Pleasantville Mountain. Bonin said a friend from Johnstown picked them up and drove them to a house in Manns Choice, where the alleged crime spree ended.

Police recovered the pastor’s abandoned Explorer some 15 hours later, troopers said in a report.

When police found the trio at the Manns Choice house, they allegedly found evidence of another, earlier crime: ice cream containers, reported stolen weeks earlier from Sundae’s ice cream shop in the borough.

Bonin said the 13-year-old likely broke into the shop May 10 or 11 and filled large containers with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Those containers remained in the house where the teens were found, police said.

Since this week’s charges, state police have reopened a series of unsolved Bedford County burglaries, considering the 13-year-old a possible suspect.

His companions have been charged with conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy to steal from a motor vehicle and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins said roughly 10 criminal cases involving the 13-year-old are in progress, with more charges likely to be released in the coming week. Most involve similar crimes, like theft, he said; the child is not accused of any violent crimes.

“He’s on sort of a crime spree,” Higgins said. “He’s just kind of a 13-year-old sort of punk.”

Higgins said a court hearing is set for Friday, with prosecutors hoping to have the child committed to juvenile placement immediately. He remains free for now, Higgins said.