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Valley man allegedly stole 2 cars, burned 1

Tonio Howard

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Friday, April 4, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

A North Charleroi man is accused of stealing vehicles from a Charleroi auto repair garage and setting one of them on fire.

Tonio Brian-Anthony Howard, 22, of 372 Pennsylvania Blvd., Apt. 5, faces arson and numerous other felony charges stemming from an investigation into burglaries at Ross Automotive.

Howard allegedly stole vehicles from the 621 McKean Ave. business on Feb. 14 and March 20, according to two criminal complaints filed Thursday with Magisterial District Judge Larry Hopkins in Charleroi.

He allegedly denied stealing a BMW 545 Sedan Feb. 14, telling Charleroi Regional Police Officer Chad Zelinsky he gave a man $20 for the car and subsequently returned the vehicle to the man, whom he never saw again.

Homestead police recovered the BMW Feb. 25 and had it impounded.

Searching the vehicle, Zelinsky found a receipt from a Sheetz convenience store in Monroeville. The receipt was printed 10:54 p.m. Feb. 22, according to the criminal complaint.

Zelinsky alleges that Sheetz surveillance camera footage shows Howard driving the stolen vehicle.

On March 20, police were called back to Ross Automotive for a burglary that occurred overnight. Employees told police someone got inside by breaking a garage bay window.

The burglar stole a gold GMC Envoy, a Sharp cash register and keys to several vehicles on the lot: a red Ford Fusion, a green Range Rover, an orange Nissan Xterra and a Ford Explorer, the complaint states.

Police said the GMC Envoy was found March 27 at the intersection of Second Street and Lincoln Avenue in Charleroi. According to the complaint, the owner, whom police did not identify, was notified and said he would have it towed.

Because the ignition key was missing, a Ross employee disabled the vehicle so it could not be driven, police stated.

At 5:22 a.m. March 28, police and Charleroi firefighters were called to the intersection of Second Street and Lincoln Avenue, where the GMC Envoy was engulfed in flames.

Police found a small, red plastic gasoline container near the vehicle. A clerk at the nearby Sunoco gas station told police a black man with tattoos on his face, neck and arms bought $2.50 in gasoline at 4:29 a.m. The gas was pumped into the red container, according to the complaint.

Police said the store's surveillance camera showed Howard purchasing the gasoline and leaving in a white Dodge Caliber.

Zelinsky stated in the complaint that he responded to a disturbance report 11:45 p.m. Monday at Howard's residence. That's when he identified Howard as the man seen in the surveillance footage from both Sheetz and Sunoco.

Under questioning at the police station, Howard denied involvement in the crimes, allegedly telling Zelinsky he filled the gasoline tank at Sunoco “for his girl,” so she had “extra gas to get back to Detroit,” the complaint states.

Police said a key for the red Ford Fusion was found in Howard's pants pocket.

Zelinsky served a search warrant at Howard's residence 12:45 p.m. Wednesday, where keys for the BMW, Range Rover and Ford Explorer were purportedly found in a duffle bag.

Howard is charged with receiving stolen property, burglary and two counts of theft by unlawful taking for the Feb. 14 incident.

For the March 20 burglary and March 28 vehicle fire, Howard is charged with 15 counts of recklessly endangering another person, three counts of arson, two counts of theft by unlawful taking and one count each of burglary, risking a catastrophe and receiving stolen property.

Howard was arraigned Thursday by Hopkins, who sent him to the Washington County Correctional Facility in lieu of $150,000 bond.

He faces a preliminary hearing 9:30 a.m. April 16 in Washington County Central Court.

Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or at



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