Friday, January 22, 2010


Man bound over to grand jury on kidnapp, burglary charges

POSTED: January 22, 2010

Salineville man accused of holding a gun to an elderly man's head and helping steal more than $30,000 from his safe in September will face a grand jury on felony charges of aggravated burglary and kidnapping.
Bond is continued at $500,000 for Christopher Crooms, 21, Summit Drive, who appeared Thursday for a preliminary hearing before Judge Carol Robb in county Municipal Court.
Crooms, who is indigent, dismissed his second court-appointed defense attorney, Carol Linger, and chose to represent himself at the hearing, despite caution from Robb against taking such an action.
Detective Sgt. Steve Walker of the county Sheriff's Office, the sole witness called upon during the hearing, said he first learned of Crooms' alleged involvement in the incident from Brian Wood, 30, Aten Avenue, Wellsville, who had been bound over on related charges in December.
According to information Walker received from Wood, a man drove a group of people including Wood and Crooms to a field in Franklin Township. They lured the resident, Larry Haupt, from his home by having one person pretend to have a broken-down car and the need to use a telephone, and when Haupt went outside to let the person use the telephone in his garage, Crooms was the one who placed the gun to Haupt's head and forced him back inside. Haupt's stepson, Ronald Jackson, who also lives there, had seen activity outside and then grabbed a gun.
"He felt something was wrong, and he grabbed the rifle and there was a standoff in the house," Walker said.
Jackson eventually put down the rifle, Walker said, and the group tied both residents up with duct tape, including covering their mouths and eyes, and went to another house to divide the money.
He said he was able to identify Crooms through the description Wood provided, and Wood later positively identified Crooms as one of the people involved in the illegal activity.
Being cross-examined by Crooms, Walker said Wood had yet to tell him anything that was, to his knowledge, untrue.
Crooms, who is biracial, questioned the credibility of information provided by Wood, claiming Wood is a member of the white supremacist group Aryan Brotherhood.
Assistant Prosecutor Virginia Barborak objected to Crooms' statement on grounds of relevance, and Robb sustained the objection.
"Being a white supremacist I don't think his statements - How can that even be considered relevant?" Crooms questioned the judge.
Robb responded by saying it may be a relevant claim for a later proceeding but noted the purpose of the hearing was only to establish if Walker had probable cause to believe Crooms had committed the crimes for which he had been charged.
Crooms asked Walker if anyone else had identified him as a person involved in the burglary and kidnapping and Walker responded affirmatively.
Barborak suggested bond be continued at $500,000 for Crooms, noting the crimes of which he is accused involve guns and home invasion.
Crooms disagreed, noting he turned himself in when he learned sheriff's deputies were searching for him and was not a flight risk, but Robb decided to continue the bond.
Crooms asked to change the venue of the proceedings, but Robb denied the request.

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