Firefighter accused in thefts waives hearing

A Rocky Grove volunteer firefighter accused of stealing lawn equipment from the department waived his preliminary hearing in the case Wednesday in Venango County Central Court.

A criminal complaint filed through District Judge Patrick Lowrey’s office said Sugarcreek Borough police Officer Joseph Highfield found a grass trimmer that he thought could be from the fire department while he was at the home of 54-year-old Terry Newman on Aug. 26.

Highfield took photos of the grass trimmer to obtain the model/serial numbers and then later confirmed them with a member of the Rocky Grove Volunteer Fire Department, the complaint said.

After learning from Highfield that the piece of equipment was found at Newman’s home, the member of the fire department told Highfield it makes sense because Newman has a key and would know where the items were kept at the station, according to the complaint.

Highfield returned to Newman’s home on Baker Street and told Newman’s wife that the grass trimmer’s serial numbers matched the one that had been stolen from the department, the complaint said.

Highfield also told Newman’s wife the department reported two other items being taken and she later led him to a backpack blower on the back porch of her home, the complaint said.

The serial numbers on the blower also matched one stolen from the department, the complaint said.

Another mower that had been spray-painted black was also found near the porch as Highfield was walking out of the home, the complaint said.

After looking at some of the paint that was scraped off and the small flakes that were black on one side and purple on the other side, Highfield determined it matched the description of another piece of equipment missing from the department, the complaint said.

All three pieces of lawn equipment were recovered and taken to the Sugarcreek Borough Police Department.

Newman has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of theft by unlawful taking, three misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property and one misdemeanor count of criminal mischief.

All of the charges will now be bound over for further proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas.

Newman remains in the Venango County jail on $25,000 bail.