CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — Mike Stuart, the United States Attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District, said on Friday his office is reviewing the role it can play in possibly ending copper theft and definitely holding trespassers, and thieves accountable.
A criminal investigation is underway to determine what charges, if any, will be filed against the four adults that are accused of breaking into the Rock House Powelton mine to steal copper.
Stuart said there has to be accountability.
The rescue of Cody Beverly, Kayla Williams, and Erica Treadway, after at least five days missing inside an abandoned coal mine, came as a surprise and relief to many.
Stuart tweeted Friday night about the seriousness of these recurring situations across southern West Virginia.
In a phone conversation, Stuart said this cannot keep happening.
“We need them to learn from this experience that this is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated, but that being said we celebrate that fact that they were rescued from that mine,” Stuart said. “It could have turned deadly for them, and it could have turned deadly for first responders, and that’s the real concern here.”
He said the teams that went into rescue Beverly, Williams and Treadway are real heroes.
“We need to make sure that first responders, when they do have to respond, it’s because they absolutely have to respond, not because something has placed them in that position, either for foolish intent or for ill intent,” Stuart Said.
As for the group of three, who was rescued, and Eddie Williams who walked out of the mine days before, Stuart said regardless of how the mine portal was sealed, that seal should not have been broken.
“When somebody steals our car, I’m not going to blame the owner of the car because the door might have been unlocked or because the thief was able to jiggle the ignition and start the vehicle. I’m not going to do that,” Stuart said.
Stuart has reached out to the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office to offer his help in the investigation.
“I want to learn why they were there and what their intentions were,” Stuart said.
The two women who were rescued from the mine, Kayla Williams and Erica Treadway are also awaiting trial on unrelated drug charges.
Eddie Williams who escaped the mine Monday on his own was not deterred by the grand larceny charges he was already facing. Those charges are for allegedly stealing $12,000 of copper wire from mine owner, Alpha Natural Resources last winter.
Potential charges stemming from the break-in are trespassing, breaking and entering and conspiracy, but right now, no new charges have been filed against any of the four.