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COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA v. JAMES EDGAR CRAWFORD (03/06/81)

filed: March 6, 1981.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,
v.
JAMES EDGAR CRAWFORD, APPELLANT



No. 110 April Term, 1978, Appeal from the Judgments of Sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, Criminal Division, No. 16 and 651 of 1977.

COUNSEL

Joseph N. Bifano, West Mifflin, for appellant.

Jess D. Costa, District Attorney, Washington, for Commonwealth, appellee.

Price, Hester and Cavanaugh, JJ.

Author: Price

[ 285 Pa. Super. Page 173]

Appellant, James Edgar Crawford, was found guilty by a jury of theft by unlawful taking*fn1 on July 13, 1977. On July 18, 1977, appellant pled guilty to an indictment charging him with recklessly endangering another person.*fn2 Thereafter, appellant was sentenced to concurrent prison terms on both

[ 285 Pa. Super. Page 174]

    the reckless endangerment charge and the prior theft conviction. This appeal from the judgments of sentence followed.*fn3

Appellant alleges three instances of reversible error in the trial proceeding and the presence of after-discovered evidence as basis for this court to allow the withdrawal of his guilty plea.*fn4 Finding no merit to any of these contentions, we affirm the order of sentence dated July 18, 1977.

Appellant's first assignment of error is that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the jury's finding that he was guilty of theft and, therefore, that the judgment should be arrested. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we must consider the entire record and all inferences properly deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. Commonwealth v. Horton, 485 Pa. 115, 401 A.2d 320 (1979). Applying this reasoning, the pertinent facts are as follows.

[ 285 Pa. Super. Page 175]

William Lutz, the owner and operator of Lutz's Auto Body Shop, leased his garage from appellant. In late August or early September of 1975, Robert McFarlane engaged Lutz to repair a dune buggy which had been involved in an off-road accident. The dune buggy, which McFarlane owned and built himself, was towed from the site of the wreck to Lutz's garage where it was placed outside with other cars waiting to be repaired. McFarlane visited the garage on several occasions to ascertain the progress, if any, of the buggy's repair. On his last trip, McFarlane was unable to locate the buggy and immediately relayed this information to Lutz who searched for the vehicle to no avail.

Lutz testified that he contacted neighbors about the buggy's possible whereabouts. He asked appellant, whose residence was approximately one-half mile from the garage, either on the same day or within the week that the buggy was discovered missing whether he had any information concerning its disappearance. Appellant denied having such information. McFarlane thus reported the buggy stolen to the Union Township Police Department.

The dune buggy was ultimately recovered on December 10, 1976, after a police search of a garage underneath a vacant house adjoining Lutz's Auto Body Shop. The search was authorized by a warrant which was based upon information received on December 9, 1976 from a confidential informant who was a neighbor of appellant. To avoid any damage when entering the garage, the officer who conducted the search first went to appellant's residence to obtain a key since he knew the house was vacant and that appellant's wife had originally been raised there. In fact, appellant did have a key because he had promised his father-in-law, the owner of the property, to oversee its maintenance. Appellant willingly unlocked the garage door to admit the investigating officer and even assisted in removing scrap and other automotive parts which were heaped on top of the buggy nearly concealing it from view. Although some of its parts were missing, the buggy was identified as the one described

[ 285 Pa. Super. Page 176]

    in the warrant and, shortly afterwards, appellant was arrested on charges of theft ...


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