Man pleads guilty, sentenced in neighborhood metal theft

Ronnie Scott Jones, Jr. pleaded guilty to theft of material, to-wit, copper in the amount of less than $20,000, a state jail felony during 32nd Judicial District Court proceedings this past week.He was sentenced to two years confinement in the State Jail Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, probated for four years. He will also have to pay a $2,000 fine, $343 in court costs, $500 in attorney's fees and restitution in the amount of $2.023.09 to Manuel Salazar of Sweetwater. He will also have to serve 120 hours of community service.The charge stems from an incident in which officers with the Sweetwater Police Department, with the help of the Nolan County Sheriff's Office and the 32nd Judicial District Attorney's Office Investigators, received a call about stolen property, obtained a search warrant, executed the search warrant and returned the stolen items, all in one day.According to SPD's Officer Armando Renteria, the Sweetwater Police Department received a report on the morning of May 24, 2013 about a burglary of a motor vehicle on the 200 block of W. Avenue D. Police investigated the incident and narrowed down the direction of where the suspect was staying. "We located a possible area of where the items might have been taken, looked around that area and tried to make contact with the resident of a house on the same block, but were unsuccessful. We knocked on the door, but nobody ever answered, even though we could hear shuffling inside," said Officer Renteria.The Sweetwater Police Department then secured a search warrant for the house just before 11 a.m. that day and executed the search warrant shortly after at 211 W. Avenue D, having to kick the door down at the house. There they located the suspect, Ronnie Jones, Jr. 18, and just inside the doorway were two large spools — about 500 pounds each — of industrial grade insulated copper wire, which were reported stolen by the victim, Manuel Salazar, the owner of Salazar Electric in Sweetwater.During the search, Brian Davis, officer with the Sweetwater Police Department, stumbled upon an odd hiding place in the house when he lifted the toilet in the bathroom. Under the toilet were many of the tools and power tools stolen from the victim.Officers stated that about 98 percent of the victim's items were recovered, including a wagon used to transport the stolen items and the victim's dog.Also found during the search was a bicycle that had been reported stolen two days before in the area and an outdoor couch that belonged to another neighbor of the suspect. All of the stolen property found was returned to their owners. "They were very happy to get their stuff back," said Officer Renteria.The Sweetwater Police Department wants to remind citizens to write down serial numbers and description of things they purchase including tools, electronics and valuables. "Add you initials to it or something that could help to identify items if they are ever stolen," said Officer Renteria.