The Elkins man who wrecked his truck on Country Club Road last week was arrested Monday on breaking-and-entering and drug-related charges, police said.
Matthew David Ray, 24, of 274 Country Club Road, No. 58, was charged with breaking and entering, a felony, for allegedly stealing items from the Central Baptist Church. The church, which is located on Country Club Road, was damaged in a fire that broke out on the evening of March 23.
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said officers discovered an item that had been stolen from the church in Ray's vehicle when they responded to the wreck, which occurred March 27.
"The deputies observed an item in the vehicle that had been reported missing from the church, so they obtained search warrants," Brady told The Inter-Mountain Tuesday.
While police were later executing a search warrant on Ray's residence, they also allegedly found items commonly used to manufacture methamphetamine, Brady said. Ray has been charged with operating or attempting to operate a clandestine drug laboratory, a felony; possession of precursors used to manufacture meth, a felony; and delivery of a controlled substance, meth, a felony, court records show.
According to criminal complaints filed in the Randolph County Magistrate Clerk's office, upon responding to the one-vehicle wreck on Country Club Road, Deputy J.M. Williams saw Ray lying on the side of the road next to his black Ford pick-up truck. Williams also spotted "a gold-colored eager flag topper" in the floor of the truck, the complaint states.
The flag topper was one of several items that had allegedly been taken from the Central Baptist Church sometime in the six weeks leading up to the March 23 fire, according to the complaints.
Deputies subsequently obtained a search warrant for Ray's car and residence and executed it on March 28. A search of Ray's trailer yielded more items that had been reported missing from the Central Baptist Church, including "a white religious flag" with yellow tassels, an American flag with yellow tassels and a cross-shaped gold flag topper.
Officers also found a blue duffle bag in Ray's bedroom closet that contained metal tubing, airline tubing, a Morton salt container with an unknown substance inside, an instant cold pack, a Coleman fuel can, drain cleaner and wire mesh, among other items officers believed to be precursors to methamphetamine.
Ray was hospitalized due to injuries he suffered in the wreck, but upon being released, met with Williams and Sgt. B.T. Pawelczyk March 28. During the meeting, Ray allegedly admitted to having stolen the items from the church within the last 30 days, according to the complaint.
"He also stated that there were more items (stolen from the church) than the ones found in his truck and his residence," Williams wrote. Ray agreed to bring the additional items to the sheriff's office later that day.
A Sanyo VCR player, a Kenmore dehumidifier, an amplifier, a "realistic" FM wireless microphone system, three "realistic" FM microphones and a jukebox were among the items Ray returned to the RCSO.
Ray also allegedly told the officers that the items found in the blue duffle bag in his bedroom closet had been used to make meth.
"Ray further stated that he did not use or sell the end product due to 'the batch did not turn out,'" Cpl. A.G. Vanscoy wrote in one of the complaints. Ray allegedly told officers that one of his friends had unsuccessfully attempted to make meth.
When asked if Ray was a person of interest in the March 23 church fire, Brady said, "The arson investigation is still currently open and being investigated by the Randolph County Sheriff's Office and the state fire marshal."
"I would like to commend the deputies on being observant and vigilant, because that's how they were able to work this case - by noticing the item in the (Ray's) vehicle," the sheriff added.
Magistrate Rob Elbon set bond at $80,000 property or surety; as of presstime, Ray remained in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail.
The penalty for a conviction of breaking and entering is confinement for one to 10 years in the state penitentiary, while the penalty for a conviction of operating or attempting to operate a clandestine drug lab is imprisonment for two to 10 years in the state penitentiary, a fine between $5,000 and $25,000, or both. The penalty for a conviction of possession of a precursor to manufacturing meth is imprisonment for two to 10 years and a fine of up to $25,000.
The penalty for a conviction of delivery of a controlled substance, meth, is one to five years in the state penitentiary, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.