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Westmoreland

Man who tried to burglarize Hempfield car wash apologizes, blames money trouble, police say

Paul Peirce
| Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, 1:48 p.m.
State police charged James R. Shaffer Jr., 34, of Johnstown, with trying to burglarize the Classic Car Wash on Sheraton Drive in Hempfield.
State police charged James R. Shaffer Jr., 34, of Johnstown, with trying to burglarize the Classic Car Wash on Sheraton Drive in Hempfield.
Marylou Nelson, 55, of Johnstown, was charged by state police in connection with an attempted burglary of the Classic Car Wash on Sheraton Drive in Hempfield
Marylou Nelson, 55, of Johnstown, was charged by state police in connection with an attempted burglary of the Classic Car Wash on Sheraton Drive in Hempfield

A man who ran from state troopers early Monday as he allegedly was breaking into a Hempfield car wash told police he needed money to support his kids.

State police charged James R. Shaffer Jr., 34, and an alleged accomplice, Marylou Nelson, 55, both of Johnstown, with criminal conspiracy, possessing instruments of crime and criminal trespass following the 3:10 a.m. incident near the Classic Car Wash on Sheraton Drive. Shaffer also is charged with burglary.

Trooper Kalin Gerhard said while he and Trooper Brandon Boyd were on routine patrol, they spotted a white Kia Soul parked on a street near the car wash and Nelson was alone in the passenger seat. As the troopers looked around for the driver, they noticed activity at the car wash.

Gerhard wrote in his report that he saw a person that turned out to be Shaffer behind the car wash wearing a black sweatshirt and black ski mask running.

Shaffer ran him down after a short pursuit on foot.

Shaffer apologized and said “he needed money for his kids,” Gerhard wrote in arrest papers filed before District Judge Anthony Bompiani of Youngwood.

Gerhard reported that troopers found a pry bar and flashlight near the car wash's air duct.

Nelson told troopers that she had no idea what Shaffer was doing after they stopped.

Gerhard said in court documents that police recovered a second pry bar, gloves, two hammers and another flashlight at her feet on the passenger side.

“Nelson was unable to provide a reason for why the tools were at her feet,” Gerhard wrote.

Shaffer could not post $10,000 bail and was ordered held in the county jail. Nelson was jailed after failing to post $5,000 bail pending a preliminary hearing Dec. 19.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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