5 suspects found in school vandalism


Spray-painted nicknames and a distinctive drawing of the cartoon character Scooby-Doo scrawled across walls led police to five people who are suspected in connection with the Thanksgiving weekend burglary and vandalism at Parr's Ridge Elementary in Mount Airy, state police said Friday.

The vandalism caused more than $60,000 worth of damage throughout the school on Watersville Road, police said.

Tpf. Daniel C. Pickett said police have questioned all of the suspects, and misdemeanor charges are pending against five Mount Airy residents - a 20-year-old man, two boys and two girls ranging in age from 15 to 17.

The school, still under construction, is scheduled to open next fall.

A construction foreman at the school reported the vandalism Nov. 29 when he returned to work after the long holiday weekend, police said.

"The damage was quite extensive," said Pickett.

He estimated that 80 percent to 90 percent of the school's walls and wooden cabinets had paint splattered across them.

Armed with three cans of paint, people entered the school through an open window late in the evening of Nov. 27, police said. Once inside the building, Pickett said, they discovered a case of spray paint.

"I don't think they intended to cause as much damage as they did, but when they found the case [of spray paint], things got out of control," Pickett said.

During a two-week investigation, Pickett and another state police officer canvassed the neighborhood in search of suspects. One resident, who asked police for anonymity, suggested possible suspects, Pickett said.

Police were able to connect this information with nicknames and initials that had been spray-painted on the walls, as well as the Scooby-Doo drawing.

"We knew that one of the juveniles was good at drawing the cartoon character," Pickett said.

He said police were at first unsure whether initials spray-painted on the walls were references to drugs or people. But after talking to residents, police were able to match up the initials with the names of the suspects.

In their investigation, police were also able to glean information from a similar act of vandalism on Thanksgiving Day at Watkins Park, adjacent to the school, Pickett said.

Three of the suspects in the school vandalism - the man, one boy and one girl - are also suspects in the park incident, police said. Charges are pending against the three in the Watkins Park vandalism.

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