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Latrobe man charged with home, business burglaries

| Sunday, June 10, 2012, 5:23 p.m.

A man suspected in several home burglaries in Westmoreland County and West Virginia, and a robbery at a Latrobe physical therapy center was arrested Friday.

Latrobe police arrested Eric Eugene Jennings, 26, in a home on Conrad Court in Latrobe on charges of burglary, robbery, theft, receiving stolen property, simple assault and loitering and prowling in a Dec. 28 robbery of the Laurel Highlands Health Center and a home burglary in Latrobe on Jan. 17.

Jennings is wanted in Moundsville, W.Va., for fraudulent use of a credit card and is suspected in three home burglaries in the city on Jan. 2, said Sgt. Darren Whipkey of Moundsville police.

Latrobe police Officer Michael Wigand said at 6:30 a.m. Jan. 17, he was dispatched to a burglary on the 300 block of West Second Avenue, where a man entered a home and stole a woman's purse while she was in the shower. Her credit cards were then used at various places throughout the Latrobe area, including Sunoco and Wal-Mart.

Wigand viewed surveillance tape from the Sunoco that showed a woman entering the store at 8:54 a.m. Jan. 17 and buying 10 packs of Newport Light cigarettes and 10 packs of Marlboro cigarettes with a stolen credit card. The same woman came back at 10:22 a.m. and attempted to buy a carton of Pall Mall cigarettes, but the transaction was declined, a criminal complaint said.

Wal-Mart surveillance showed the same woman purchasing $125.08 worth of jewelry, two Xbox 360 games, two PlayStation 3 games, a comforter and a quilt totaling $437.36 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Surveillance videos showed the woman entering a tan 1999 Chevy Lumina, which officers traced to the Conrad Court home of a woman. She reported she had loaned the car to a neighbor.

A search warrant was issued Friday for the neighbor's apartment, where officers found the merchandise purchased with the stolen cards, the purse from the West Second Avenue burglary and Jennings.

Wigand said police cast impressions of footprints outside the West Second Avenue home, which matched a pair of "Texas Steer boots" that Jennings was wearing.

Jennings later admitted to entering the home and stealing the purse, Wigand said.

Jennings tried to break into other houses on the same block after the burglary. "The footprints in the snow suggest that he went to at least a dozen other houses but was unsuccessful to get in the back doors," Wigand said.

Police will file charges this week against the woman for forgery, fraudulent use of a credit card and receiving stolen property.

In later interviews, Jennings confessed to the robbery of the Laurel Highlands Health Center on Ligonier Street, police said.

According to a criminal complaint, Jennings went into the center and said he was "looking for the bathroom."

After being directed to an exit door, Jennings came back in the office and stole the contents of an employee's purse and $300 in cash, the complaint said.

"He was confronted by a co-worker, who tried to detain him until police could get there but ... (he) was kneed in the groin" and Jennings escaped, Wigand said.

Whipkey said Jennings used credit cards stolen from three houses on the same block in Moundsville.

"He went to a bar and used a credit card six times; told the people at the bar that the card was his aunt's," Whipkey said. "He also may have taken some cash and jewelry, but it's still under investigation."

Wigand said that Jennings admitted he is addicted to prescription pills and was "just looking for money."

A preliminary hearing for Jennings will be held Monday before Unity District Judge Michael Mahady. He is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison.

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