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Guitar heist thwarted

By Staff | Jun 18, 2010

Ellsworth Music store repair technician Karen Buss replaces the Austin acoustic guitar that was taken last Thursday, June 10. Chronicle Photo by Daniel Friend

A Thurmont, Md., man proved the adage that timing is everything last Thursday, June 10, when he ran out of Ellsworth Music store on South Duke Street carrying a guitar he had allegedly just stolen, police reported.

As John S. Cody, 24, sprinted about 12:19 p.m. toward a parked car, Shepherdstown Police Department Officer Jack Fleagle was rounding the corner from Washington Street, arrest reports show.

“He jumped headlong into the vehicle,” Fleagle said, noting it’s “seldom” he’s able to thwart such a crime as it’s happening.

When Cody was questioned by the female passenger and the driver with whom he was traveling about what was going on, he muttered within earshot of Fleagle, “I stole something,” Fleagle reported.

Ellsworth Music Store repair technician Karen Buss said the Austin acoustic guitar, which has since been replaced on the rack, is worth about $400.

John Cody ERJ Photo

When Cody entered the store, he had asked Buss if he could try out one of the store’s instruments, she said.

“He was real polite and asked me how I was,” Buss said. As she resumed repairs to another customer’s musical instrument, she saw Cody run by the counter, and she followed the 6-foot, 180-pound man out the door, she said.

By the time Buss made it to the door, she saw Fleagle blocking the car with his police cruiser.

“It was perfect timing,” Buss said. “I couldn’t believe how perfect it was.”

As Fleagle was arresting Cody, the town Police Department called him with information that the driver David T. Burkett, 26, had an active warrant for unpaid citations in Shepherdstown dating back to 2004. Burkett gave Fleagle a Knoxville, Md., mailing address. He was also arrested.

The woman in the car reportedly told police she and the two men were headed toward Hagerstown to take her young son (who was also in the vehicle) to a doctor’s appointment. Cody reportedly asked if they could stop by Ellsworth’s for a moment.

The driver and the woman later told Fleagle they didn’t have any idea he planned to steal anything, Fleagle told the Chronicle.

Fleagle took the guitar to the police station to take some pictures of it, and noted it was in great shape, considering Cody allegedly had jumped into the car with it at full stride.

“He did it gingerly, because there wasn’t a scratch on it,” Fleagle said.

Cody was arrested and transported to the Jefferson County Magistrate Court in Charles Town where he was arraigned on one count of petit larceny. Bond was set at $2,000, and Cody was taken to Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg. He was later released.

Under West Virginia law, Cody could face a fine up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail, if he is convicted of the larceny charge.