Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, June 12 newspaper on Page A3.
A Carbon Hill man made his initial appearance Tuesday in Athens County Municipal Court on four felony charges.
Christopher Withem, 38, is charged with arson, tampering with evidence and two counts of theft of vehicles. Withem’s bond was set at $100,000, and as of Tuesday afternoon he remained in Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 17.
The charges stem from a May 28 report that a Hopewell Health Centers facility on Kimberley Road had been entered through an unlocked door and several items taken.
According to a news release from the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, Hopewell’s staff reported two vans, six laptops, four iPhones and a backpack were missing.
The phones were able to be tracked to two locations, Wolfe Bennett Road and Pedigo Road.
On this same date, the State Highway Patrol and an Ohio State Fire Marshal investigator responded to a burning vehicle on Ten Spot Road. The vehicle was one of the stolen vans, according to the news release, which said the second van was located on an access road off of Pedigo Road. The second van was found with the hood up, battery missing and had been doused with gasoline but not ignited.
A camera was inside the second van and Hopewell staff was able to retrieve the footage from that camera. Based on that footage, Withem was allegedly identified as the driver of the van.
Withem was located and interviewed by Sheriff’s Lt. James Heater and State Fire Marshal investigator Alan Flickinger, and allegedly identified another man and a woman as being involved, according to the new release. The woman has been interviewed by authorities, and allegedly provided information about the items taken from Hopewell and about other thefts.
The sheriff’s office said the investigation is ongoing, and the case and additional charges are expected to be presented to a grand jury.
Withem was also charged Monday by the State Highway Patrol with receiving stolen property, an offense alleged to have occurred June 9.