DNA helped catch suspected telephone wire thief - KCTV5

DNA helped catch suspected telephone wire thief

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Police say Tommy J. Kitchell was cutting down telephone wires in Platte County and left some big clues at the crime scene. Police say Tommy J. Kitchell was cutting down telephone wires in Platte County and left some big clues at the crime scene.
PLATTE CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Investigators say DNA helped them catch a man whose crime spree put hundreds of people in danger because they couldn't call 911.

Police say Tommy J. Kitchell was cutting down telephone wires in Platte County and left some big clues at the crime scene.

"We found DNA on the inside of a ball cap, as well as wire cutters found at the scene of the crime," said Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd.

Crime lab analysts compared the DNA at the crime scene to the CODIS database, which is a database of convicted offenders' DNA. Investigators say Kitchell's DNA matched the DNA found near missing telephone wires.

"People are familiar that we use it in murder cases and rape cases. What they ought to understand is we use it in a whole variety of cases, like this, that involve tampering with copper wire. We use it in burglary cases and car stealing cases," Zahnd said.

Thieves are going to new heights to cash in on copper. They steal telephone and electrical wire and sell the copper inside those wires. The crime is putting people's safety in jeopardy.

"It adds seconds to that emergency alerting. So it adds to emergency response times," said Chris Denney, director of technology.

The crime cut the Southern Platte County fire station's emergency communications, forcing them to use the backup radio system.

"People rely on their telephones for life-saving purposes if there is a fire, if there is a medical emergency and when telephone lines are out for no good reason, simply because people want to steal it for scrapping purposes, it is a huge problem," Zahnd said.

Investigators say Kitchell denied any involvement in the wire theft.

He was already in the Platte County Jail for an unrelated case when investigators discovered his DNA matched DNA found at a wire theft. He posted bond and was released from jail.

Authorities say thieves are targeting a certain type of wire that is covered with a black outer sheathing. They will extract the copper by melting the telephone wire to get rid of the sheathing. The process produces large amounts of black smoke.

Investigators are asking anyone who sees someone acting suspicious near telephone or electrical wire to report it immediately.

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