Thursday, August 2nd, 2007
Guilty plea entered
By Margie Wuebker
A St. Henry man, who broke into Fort Recovery Middle School on May 6 and did more than $26,000 in damage, pleaded guilty to breaking and entering and vandalism during a Wednesday morning appearance in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
Travis Buehler, 18, 4314 Lange Road, entered the plea as part of a negotiated agreement that included dismissal of another breaking and entering charge as well as one count of making a false alarm.
Buehler, speaking in low tones, waived his rights to a jury trial and the opportunity to have people testify on his behalf. Sentencing will take place Sept. 4 with Judge Jeffrey Ingraham ordering the defendant to undergo evaluation at the WORTH Center in Lima prior to that time. The process would determine his eligibility for the residential program.
As part of the negotiated agreement, he must pay restitution which totals in excess of $26,000 to date. Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Matt Fox reserved the right to argue prior to sentencing.
Vandalism, a fourth-degree felony, carries the possibility of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine while breaking and entering, a fifth-degree felony, could add another 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Fort Recovery Police Chief Jared Laux responded to the school at 865 Sharpsburg Road shortly before 12:30 a.m. May 6 in response to a fire alarm. After spotting numerous broken windows, he called for backup with St. Henry Police, the Mercer County Sheriff's Office and Southwest Mercer Fire Department responding.
Buehler, reportedly bleeding from cuts to his arms and chest, offered no resistance after being apprehended on a sidewalk near the building.
He entered the building after smashing a door possibly with a manhole cover and then traveled along an inside corridor known as Main Street leaving glass from interior and exterior windows in his wake. Thirty windows were damaged along with display cases, trophies, plaques and office equipment.
Fifty volunteers, including school employees, local firefighters and parents, spent four hours cleaning up a virtual sea of glass. They also washed down walls to remove tiny shards in preparation for an afternoon choir concert.
The library was closed for the remainder of the school year with a cleaning crew working during the summer to make sure no glass remained hidden among rows of books.
Buehler apparently acted alone with alcohol being a factor in the vandalism spree. He has yet to explain publicly the reasons leading to his destructive actions.