The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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September 17, 2013

Police take step forward in probe of area burglaries

— State police say one man might be responsible for a number of the 19 recent burglaries in the Somerset area.

And images captured of the person at the scene of several thefts – as well as the way he walks – might lead to his capture, investigators said.

State police in Somerset released photos taken inside one location that show a man whose right foot turns noticeably toward his left when he walks.

“At this point, we can tie him to at least some of these burglaries,” Cpl. Ed Thomas said Monday, adding that it is possible the individual may have been involved in many or all of them.

During the past several months, eight restaurants, three gas stations and numerous other businesses have been burglarized.

Many are in the Somerset area, including Glades Pike Road. Others were targeted on Route 30 near Jennerstown and as far south as Rockwood.

Jim DePhillips said he doesn’t know if the man state police describe is the same person who broke into his restaurant, The Oakhurst Tea Room, in August.

But he called the recent string of burglaries “disheartening” and hopes whoever is involved is quickly apprehended.

“It’s frustrating,” he said, noting someone gained entry through a window and cleaned out a Tea Room cash register.

His office door was kicked in, he said.

“You work and you struggle to keep a business going, and just like that something like this happens,” he said. “Just knowing someone was stalking around our property, it was weird for all of us for a few days.”

“He was in the office where I work every day,” DePhillips said.

PBS Coals, Kantner Iron and Steel and Green Gables Restaurant are also among the list of recently-burglarized businesses, police said.

Others include bank ATMs, Our Coal Miner’s Cafe and an auto shop, police said.

An image provided Monday shows the man dressed in dark clothing, wearing a black winter hat, hooded sweatshirt and a light-colored bandana or piece of cloth masking his face.

Thomas said the suspect is believed to be light skinned with a thin build. But the apparent foot disability is their strongest clue, he said.

“That’s pretty distinct,” he said. “We’re hoping someone will see this ... and will recognize this man.”

Those with information can contact state police in Somerset at 445-4104.

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