The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 11, 2013

Prosecution rests in Westmont break-in case

Kathy Mellott
kmellott@tribdem.com

EBENSBURG — The prosecution rested its case late Monday in the trial of a Harrisburg-area man who police allege broke into a Westmont home, stealing nearly $9,000 in cash plus rolled coins.

James Douglas Brages, 39, is on trial for burglary, criminal trespass, theft and receiving stolen property following the June 5 burglary of a home in the 1100 block of Edgehill Drive.

The victim testified that he took his wife to a doctor’s appointment after leaving a side door open to allow workers access to an in-home elevator.

In cross-examination by defense attorney Patricia Moore, the victim said the two men working on his elevator had been in his home in the past and there were never any problems.

“I coached them in Little League,” the victim said of the two repairmen. “I know their father real well.”

It was a day later, June 6, that the victim went to the small safe in his home to get cash for a second doctor’s appointment, and he discovered just under $9,000 and $55 in rolled coins was missing.

Brages was initially linked to the crime a day earlier on June 5, when a man living on the same block called West Hills Regional Police to notify them of someone who repeatedly rang his doorbell and when confronted said he was looking for a local bike trail.

In court Monday, the neighbor identified Brages, who at the time the defendant approached his home, was wearing black clothing and a ball cap. He had a dark backpack on the bicycle he was riding.

Police apprehended Brages a short time later riding his bike down Gilbert Street and when questioned, Brages said he was a roofer working in the area.

He carried a number of identifications and told police he had been kicked out of where he was staying and was homeless.

Found in his pants pockets was $8,927.48 in mostly cash with $55 in rolled coins.

In the backpack he had rubber gloves, duct tape, a hacksaw, two utility knives, a pry bar, a hammer, a cellphone and some small jewelry.

Brages was detained by police.

More than a month later, a second neighbor of the victim, reading an account of Brages’ preliminary hearing in The Tribune-Democrat, recalled seeing a man, dressed in black, on a bike going up the victim’s driveway on June 5.

He contacted police and was questioned Monday by Cambria County Assistant District Attorney Joseph Green.

The defense will present its side today and the case is expected to go to the jury this afternoon.

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