Two men are facing criminal charges for the alleged theft of more than four miles of copper wiring from a Sound Transit light rail tunnel in what King County prosecutors say is the largest known case of metal theft in Washington state.
Donald Howard Turpin, 54, and Lee Russell Skelly, 44, are each charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree trafficking in stolen property for wire thefts that occurred from November 2010 through August 2011. Turpin is also charged with first-degree theft, prosecutors said.
Both men remain at large, the prosecutor’s office said.
According to a post on the prosecutor’s website, the men would climb through maintenance hatches in a tunnel that runs below the light rail between the SeaTac and Rainer Beach rail stations and remove the copper wire designed to ground “stray voltage” in the track system. They allegedly dropped the wire through air vents and then drove along the line, picking up the cut wire at various locations, prosecutors said.
The men then allegedly sold the wire to various scrap metal recycling businesses in King County. Turpin made approximately $39,000 in profit while Skelly received over $4,000, prosecutors said.
The two men were linked to the thefts by DNA left on Gatorade bottles found at the scene of the thefts, the prosecutor’s office says.
The replacement cost of the 70,000 pounds of copper wire is estimated at $1.3 million so far.