By MARY RAINWATER
An Anderson County jury began hearing the case this week of a burglar who was caught by Anderson County Sheriff’s deputies while the man and an accomplice appeared to be returning to the scene of the crime.
Testimony began Tuesday afternoon and continued Wednesday before a jury of five men and seven women in a case against Gary Robertson, 40, of Palestine, who is charged with the offense of burglary of a habitation alleged to have occurred on Nov. 21, 2011.
The case is being presented by First Assistant Stanley Sokolowski on behalf of the Anderson County District Attorney’s Office along with District Attorney Doug Lowe.
The burglary occurred in the early morning hours of Nov. 21 at Montee’s Auto World, located on U.S. 84 just east of Loop 256. The business, which also sells and repairs motorcycle parts and equipment, is owned by Montee Poole.
At about 7:45 a.m., within hours after the burglary, Anderson County Sheriff Sgt. Bobby Bishop was looking for a Toyota pickup officers believed had been used in the heist.
As he was traveling on FM 323, approximately half a mile from the scene, Bishop spotted two men in a Toyota pickup driving very slowly as if looking for something on the side of the road.
A motorcycle, taken in the burglary, was later found in the woods on the edge of the property that borders FM 323 behind Montee’s Auto World.
Robertson and his accomplice, 42-year-old Chad Beck of Jacksonville, were stopped minutes later by Bishop and Anderson County Sheriff Deputy Michelle Tillman, just east of the business on FM 1137.
Officers located motorcycle helmets, jackets and other items taken in the burglary as well as bolt cutters, flashlights and ski masks when the pickup was searched.
Surveillance video taken during the burglary from cameras inside and outside of the business was shown by prosecutors to the jury during Poole’s testimony. The video revealed one or more intruders who appeared to be searching or rummaging through the closed business.
Poole recalled during his testimony that he had met the defendant when Robertson brought a motorcycle in to have a tire replaced.
Local attorney Colin McFall, who is representing Robertson, questioned Poole about whether the business building qualified as a “habitation,” which under Texas law is broadly defined as “a structure or vehicle that is adapted for overnight accommodation of persons.”
Poole testified that he sometimes stays overnight at his business and sleeps on a fold-out couch that he uses when he works late in the shop. The building is equipped with a kitchen and shower in addition to an office and work areas.
“Since these guys burglarized my place,” Poole said, “I won’t spend the night at my business.”
McFall contended that if his client was guilty, he was only guilty of burglary of a building, a state jail felony with a maximum punishment of two years in prison.
Burglary of a habitation is a second degree felony, which carries a possible punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
District Judge Mark Calhoon is presiding over the trial at the Anderson County Courthouse, which is expected to conclude this week. The trial of Robertson’s co-defendant, Beck, is slated for later this year.
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org