N.C. man accused of stealing bleachers from Clover ball field

Seats and bleachers at the Bethany Sports Complex were dismantled, leaving only frames.
Seats and bleachers at the Bethany Sports Complex were dismantled, leaving only frames.

$4,000 worth of metal sold to recycler, police say

A Gaston County, N.C., man took apart bleachers and benches at a Clover ball field and then sold the materials as scrap metal, authorities say.

Kenneth James Lane, of 4715 Jamee Drive, Gastonia, was being held in the Gaston County jail on Tuesday awaiting extradition to York County, where deputies are expected to charge him with larceny and malicious injury to property. Police say he stole the pieces from Bethany Sports Complex near Clover.

Lane took a set of bleachers, two dugout benches and a park bench valued at $4,000, said York County Sheriff's Capt. Jerry Hoffman. Lane later sold the pieces to a recycler, Hoffman said.

After visiting area scrap metal dealerships, Hoffman said investigators found the evidence at K and K Recycling in Gastonia.

A man was seen dismantling the bleachers July 23, said Bill White, Bethany Sports Complex president.

When people questioned him, the man told witnesses that he was replacing the bleachers for a church, White said. It wasn't until Wednesday that White realized what had happened and reported the incident to the Sheriff's Office.

White said officers told him they couldn't serve the warrants because Lane was not home. So White went to the man's neighborhood himself at 12:30 a.m. Saturday and waited until he saw the man's truck. He then called in the Gaston County Sheriff's Office.

K and K owner David Hutto said he had no way of knowing where the pieces came from.

"The bleachers, when they came in here, they were bent up," Hutto said. "It looked like scrap. He had tried to bend them in half and everything else."

Similar incidents happen often and pose problems for scrap metal dealers, he said.

"It's a complete loss to us," Hutto said. "We help (officers) all we can and then all they do is confiscate the stuff, and we don't even get restitution on it."

The sports complex at the corner of S.C. 55 and Ranger Road is used by children ages 4 to 12 for softball, T-ball and soccer, White said. The park was not being used last week, but will be needed for soccer games soon.

White said workers will need to make repairs to the field and remove two posts sticking out of the ground. He hopes the community can help raise the money to replace the equipment.

"This gentleman attacked our elderly and our children, because that's who our park is for," White said. "It's a shame."