4 men arrested along Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County after burglary, chase

By AMANDA CHRISTMAN (Staff Writerachristman@standardspeaker.com)

Published: September 5, 2013 / www. http://republicanherald.com

Not long after a burglary at a Sugarloaf Township gas station – followed by a high-speed pursuit and a foot chase in Schuylkill County – state police at Hazleton arrested and charged four men in the break-in and theft of thousands of dollars Wednesday.

Police identified the men as father and son, Troy E. Baker, 49, and Terrell C. Baker, 28, both of different addresses in Baltimore, Md.; Cornell A. Cole, 50, of Clinton, Md.; and Cornelius M. Smith, 35, of Washington, D.C. Each faces felony charges of burglary, criminal conspiracy to commit burglary and theft.

Their capture came after police received a phone call about 4 a.m. alerting them to a burglary at the Shell gas station along Route 93, near the intersection of Tomhicken Road and close to the Interstate 81 on and off ramps. The caller, arrest papers state, told police that four men committed the burglary and were southbound on Interstate 81 in a maroon 2003 GMC Yukon Denali XL with a Maryland license plate.

The suspects were identified with help from the Lower Paxton police department, which was familiar with the vehicle involved in the theft and the occupants, arrest papers state. A witness of the incident also stepped forward, according to court papers.

Police said the front door of the gas station was forced open. The business’s safe and ATM were broken into and their contents – amounting to about $35,000 – stolen, said Nedal Abdulrahman, owner of the gas station.

About 20 minutes after the burglary was reported, police spotted and attempted to stop the vehicle allegedly used in the crime on I-81 at mile marker 128.7 in Schuylkill County but the driver refused to stop, court papers state.

Police said a high-speed pursuit ensued and ended at mile marker 100.1 near Pine Grove, where state police at Jonestown deployed tire deflation devices on the highway. The vehicle came to a stop but two men fled the vehicle into the woods next to I-81. One of the men, police said, was taken into custody after a brief foot pursuit while the other was taken into custody at 6:22 a.m. The two other men who stayed in the vehicle were taken into custody at the scene, police said.

Police escorted the men – all wearing black, long-sleeved T-shirts except for Troy Baker, who’s shirt spelled out the word “SECURITY” – into Magisterial District Judge Daniel O’Donnell’s Sugarloaf courtroom.

O’Donnell arraigned the men Wednesday afternoon, setting their bail at $250,000 each and, unable to immediately post it, they were taken to jail.

State police at Hazleton asked O’Donnell for bail that would ensure all four would attend their preliminary hearing – tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday before O’Donnell – citing none of them had family in the area, each is facing felony charges, three of the four men have criminal records and two of them ran from police. Police said the younger Baker has no prior criminal record.

Abdulrahman said the business was burglarized once before about six years ago, but the damage incurred and amount taken in that crime was not nearly as much as Wednesday’s burglary. He hoped to open the business, which handles mostly highway customers, as soon as the necessary repairs are made. He said a wire to his alarm system, register system and the ATM were damaged in the crime, along with broken locks at his front door.

Abdulrahman said he was alerted to the incident by phone about 7 a.m. when an employee reported to the business for work. That employee, he said, told him there were police officers at the property.

Abdulrahman said he was thankful no employees were in the store at the time of the crime.

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