Man faces felony charge for newspaper rack theft

OKEECHOBEE — The Lake Okeechobee News office was notified in November that one of the newspaper dispensers was found in the back of someone’s Dodge pickup truck.

Okeechobee City Police (OPD) Officer Luis Rojas reported that he observed the box in the bed of a truck belonging to Robert Bruce King, age 52, Southwest 23rd Terrace. Mr. King reportedly told Officer Rojas he had found the box in a dumpster while looking for things to scrap. The newspaper box was returned to it’s original location in Sun Plaza, and no charges were filed at that time.

Robert Bruce King, 52

On Saturday, Dec. 15, the newspaper employee who services the newspaper dispensers noticed two of the boxes had been tampered with, and the locks had been cut off. The coins had been stolen from the boxes.

Shortly after the staffer reported this to the OPD, Sgt. Dawn Wendt reportedly saw Robert King in the area in his truck. Knowing he was a suspect in a previous news dispenser case, Sgt. Wendt followed him to the Sunoco station when the truck pulled in, and engaged him in conversation. Driving the truck at the time was Mr. King’s girlfriend, Jennifer Jackson, who explained she was driving her boyfriend around while he looked for scrap. Sgt. Wendt then reportedly saw pieces of a cut lock lying in the bed of the truck and on the dash. There was also a set of bolt cutters in the bed of the truck.

Sgt. Wendt asked for and received permission to search the truck, and found a Tupperware container containing coins, a red bag containing coins, a bag containing drug paraphernalia and several pills, which turned out to be morphine, hydromorphine and several others they were not able to identify.

When asked about the locks, Mr. King allegedly said he threw one of them out the window, and the coins came out of the newspaper dispensers. He was charged with criminal mischief $200 or less, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of controlled substance without a prescription and grand theft over $300 but under $500. Bond was set at $4,500.

Lake Okeechobee News publisher Katrina Elsken explained that stealing a newspaper vending rack is a felony due to the value of the rack itself. She added that due to the recent thefts, the circulation department has started collecting the quarters from the racks more frequently so there will never be more a few dollars change in a rack.

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