By JOSH NEWTON
A Stilwell man on Wednesday entered a blind plea in Cherokee County District Court on felony charges stemming from the theft of more than $75,000 worth of products from his former employer.
Jerry Michael Miller Jr., 33, was charged in August 2011 with two counts of second-degree burglary, two counts of grand larceny, two counts of unauthorized use of a vehicle, and knowingly concealing stolen property.
Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators in summer 2011 began looking into a report of a burglary at Ziese Products Inc., a Cookson-area business that machines and produces aluminum gaskets for oil-drilling rigs.
Miller, who was an employee of the company, soon became a suspect and admitted to investigators he had burglarized the business on four separate occasions.
Miller told investigators he took the stolen products to a West Siloam Springs recycling center and sold them as scrap metal, for which he received about $2,000. Miller told investigators he was short on money and needed to pay bills that had been piling up.
Investigators accompanied the business owner to the recycling center and initially recovered more than 16,000 pounds of stolen items, but later found four pallets belonging to Ziese. Those pallets contained more than 700 pounds of stolen products.
Assistant District Attorney B.J. Baker said Miller has had several run-ins with police, with a prior conviction in Adair County related to a string of burglaries, and a burglary that occurred in Nebraska.
Because of Miller’s previous convictions, he was facing up to life in prison on the seven felony counts out of Cherokee County, according to Baker. Miller and his defense attorney, Donn Baker, entered a blind plea of guilty in front of Associate District Judge Mark Dobbins on Wednesday, which keeps the case from going before a Cherokee County jury.
Dobbins ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set Miller’s sentencing for next February.