I’ve been keeping an ongoing report on the Iowa Cold Cases website documenting the needless destruction and deaths — all across the nation and abroad — brought about by copper thieves. I had cases from all 50 states. From Asia and Australia, Canada and China, Scotland and South Africa. And more.
I thought I’d seen it all. I was wrong.
My list of deaths is likely far from complete, but one thing has always remained constant: of the 50+ deaths already listed, only one name — Earl Thelander — falls under the category “Innocent Victims.” Earl was my stepfather, married to my mother just shy of 25 years before dying of burns suffered in an explosion caused by copper thieves.
There’s a new victim to add to the list, though I’m not quite sure how to list it. The atrocity of this particular crime falls outside the boundaries of heinous acts and anything even I could have imagined.
It happened in the UK, in Sittingbourne, Kent, where heartless copper thieves used a six-month-old foal as a “tester” to see if electricity still moved through the line they planned to cut and steal. It did, and the “horrifically burnt remains” of the foal were left in the field for its heartbroken owner — a man in his eighties — to discover the following day.
The crime not only claimed the trusting foal’s life, it also plunged 3,000 homes into complete darkness once the thieves cut down the pylon.
Day after day I read the harrowing stories: copper thieves leaving an animal welfare league, with 86 animals, without air conditioning in the July heat; copper thieves silencing 10 sirens during a tornado warning; copper thieves leaving hundreds of Verizon customers without landline, cell phone and Internet service; copper thieves causing between $250,000 and $300,000 in damage while freezing a state bridge in place; and copper thieves threatening US critical infrastructure by targeting electrical sub-stations, cellular towers, telephone land lines, railroads, water wells, construction sites, and vacant homes.
The stories are too numerous for me to include all of them on the website. And despite every new story about a copper theft death and the thief having caused his or her own death, I feel great sadness as I add yet another name to the list and think about the families left behind — families not only grieving their loved one’s death but also forced to face unsympathetic communities rife with contempt for the deceased’s offense.
Where does it stop? When will it end? When will state legislators begin to take seriously the need for strict (and enforced) scrap metal sales?