Officers and inmates probed in copper thefts - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Officers and inmates probed in copper thefts

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July 6, 2006

Terrell County -- Correctional officers and the inmates they guarded may have worked together to steal. The GBI is questioning some officers and inmates in Terrell County after thefts at an abandoned school.

Terrell County Sherriff John Bowen called in the GBI last month. The GBI says it's still too early in the investigation to talk much about it. But we do know agents are looking into thefts of aluminum and copper wiring that were in the old school.

The thefts occured here at the abandoned Terrell County Middle High School on Crawford Street. Terrell County Correction Institution Warden Billy McClung says it may have happened in early June when some of his inmates were assigned to work at the Dawson Police Department located next door.

The warden says he had the school board's permission to use the empty school for rescue training sessions. During training he noticed the building had been stripped of aluminum vents and copper wiring, and he reported the thefts to police.

He says some of his inmates told him that other inmates may have been involved with the metal swipe. McClung then told police what inmates told him. The GBI took over the investigation at the request of Terrell County Sherriff John Bowen.

Warden McClung says four of his corrections officers have been questioned by the GBI, two of them may be suspects. GBI hasn't said which two, and no one is suspended from work.

He also says four of his inmates were questioned, but McClung doesn't know if they are suspects in this crime. Some other potential inmate suspects were released from the Correction Institution before the investigation started.

Warden McClung says several other State Department of Corrections officers who don't work for him were also questioned. The GBI hasn't given him an update since last week. Agents say they will release more about this case early next week.

Stealing and selling copper is a growing crime. We talked to a supervisor at Albany Recycling Center. He says they have been contacted by investigators on this case, but he wouldn't say if the stolen metal was brought there.

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