Police: Newell man wanted in connection with explosives investigation may be dead
Is the Newell man in whose home authorities allegedly found military and industrial explosives in November dead?
Kristen Minnicks, the daughter of Jeffrey Wilson, told The Valley Independent on Tuesday that he has been dead since Dec. 4. She declined to comment on where or how Wilson died.
Southwest Regional police Chief John Hartman said a body was found in a motel in Vidor, Texas, but he has yet to receive confirmation it was that of Wilson.
An autopsy was performed on the body found in the little West Texas town about 20 miles from the Louisiana border. No one else was in the motel room when the body was discovered.
After the autopsy, the body was cremated. Hartman said authorities never saw the remains after cremation.
Minnicks said she went to Texas to pick up what she claims are her father's remains.
However, Hartman said Wilson has not been ruled dead.
“We can't officially say until we get documentation from Texas,” Hartman said.
Hartman said he is awaiting an autopsy report and the death certificate from the Orange County, Texas, sheriff's department.
“I'm not saying Kristen is lying, not at all. ... We can't say he's alive or dead until we get the documentation from Texas.”
Hartman said he has been in contact with the Orange County sheriff's department since the body was discovered.
Minnicks told Southwest Regional Police she will provide a copy of the death certificate and autopsy report when she receives it. Minnicks told The Valley Independent she has not received either report.
Based on information received from Minnicks, Magisterial District Judge Jesse Cramer in Belle Vernon agreed to allow police to cancel the warrant for Wilson's arrest.
Hartman said Wilson previously worked as an electrician in Texas and made several trips there. Hartman said the investigation involving Wilson's home in Newell continues.
Southwest Regional went to Wilson's residence Nov. 26 in search of the two guns as a part of an investigation into a burglary ring that struck several homes in Newell over a five-month period. That's when they found the explosives.
“The evidence we developed, we're still looking at,” Hartman said. “How did the items we found down there get down there at his house – guns, ammunition, detonation cord?
According to the affidavit of probable cause filed in the case, police found the following in Wilson's house:
• Nine 5-minute fuses.
• Twenty-seven 10-minute railway fuses.
• Four unknown railway fuses.
• Forty-six railway torpedoes.
• Two military M18 red smoke grenades.
• Approximately 76 feet of military detonation cord.
• Approximately 6 feet of military time fuse.
• Several loaded ammunition magazines for an AK-47 assault rifle.
Hartman said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. Marshal's office are involved in the investigation.
Hartman said that shortly after the discovery in Newell, his department traced Wilson to Texas and notified authorities there.
“We talked to (Wilson) while he was down there and asked him to come home and talk to us,” Hartman said. “He refused.”
The case involving Wilson resulted from an investigation into the Newell burglaries.
In October, Mark Anthony Burnett, 18, of 409 Miller St., Newell, and Michael Sawyer, 21, of 922 Evan St., Jeannette, were each charged with three counts of burglary, criminal conspiracy aiding, theft by unlawful taking-movable property, and receiving stolen property.
In December, Southwest Regional charged Ryan Cline of 100 Church St., Jacobs Creek, with six counts of illegal possession or selling of firearms; three counts of conspiracy to commit theft of a firearm and theft by unlawful taking; and one count of carrying a concealed firearm without a license.
Cline was arraigned by Cramer and sent to the Fayette County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash bond.
Brandon Perine, 19, of 101 Linden St., Monessen, was charged in December with conspiracy to commit theft of a firearm and theft by unlawful taking. He was arraigned by Cramer and released on $2,500 unsecured bond.
Perine and Cline waived their rights to preliminary hearings Jan. 4 and are awaiting trial.
According to Hartman, Perine confessed that he and Cline stole the guns to obtain drugs. While investigating, police determined Cline had been involved in at least two other firearm thefts.
On Friday, Matthew von Kerik, 21, of 136 Fourth St., was picked up during an unrelated investigation in Penn Hills on an arrest warrant held by Southwest Regional.
Von Kerik was placed in the Fayette County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bond.
He previously confessed to participation in a burglary at 206 Long St., Newell, in which jewelry and a .38 special revolver were stolen.
The suspects were charged in connection with burglaries at 206 Long St., 511 Cassin Ave., and 608 Second St., in Newell.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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