Meridian Star

Local News

November 14, 2013

Electronics stolen from Clarkdale High School

MERIDIAN —     Laptops and electronic equipment were stolen from Clarkdale High School Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

    When school officials arrived Wednesday morning they discovered a thief or thieves had pried open a window in a school technology lab to gain access to the school and had broken into about a dozen classrooms.

    "The classrooms were locked and they pried open those doors," school Principal Cheryl Thomas said.

    The stolen items include 17 to 20 laptops, band speakers and equipment and technology equipment, such as an Elmo wall projector, Thomas said.

    "Desktop computers were not touched at all," Thomas said. "They seemed to be looking for things they could easily take."

    Classrooms were also ransacked, with items pulled out of cabinets and drawers.

    "They were looking for money," Thomas said. "There really was no money; just loose change."    

    Investigators with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department were at the school Wednesday trying to determine what all had been taken.

    "We are still trying to process all the physical evidence we have compiled from a full days worth of trying to determine who did this and what all they may have taken," LCSD Chief Dep. Ward Calhoun said Wednesday afternoon. "At this point we still aren't one hundred percent sure of the full extent of the incident."

    Ag and Natural Resources teacher Toni Buchanan's classroom was among those targeted. The bulk of the laptops stolen from the school were taken from a locked cabinet in Buchanan's classroom. Her personal computer was taken as well.

    Buchanan, who also teaches shop, said welders, plasma cutters and many other pieces of expensive shop equipment were collected by the thief or thieves but were not taken.

    "They had all of my tools unplugged, all the leads wrapped up and they were all sitting at the garage door and the garage door was up," Buchanan said. "So somebody either interrupted them or stopped them or they ran out of room because they just left the tools lined up."

    Thomas said equipment in the softball field house was also collected but was not taken as well. Thomas believes the person or persons responsible for the break-in intended to come back to get the remaining items but were unable to do so for whatever reason.

    Buchanan, who is also the National FFA Organization (formerly Future Farmers of America) educator at the school, said the most cherished items stolen were four Louisville Slugger bats that hung on the wall in her classroom.

    Each year, Buchanan takes FFA students on a tour of the bat factory in Kentucky.

    "They actually pick out the piece of wood and we walk through the factory and they get to watch it being made," Buchanan said. "At the end of the trip they all sign it and I hang it here in the school."

    In addition to the Louisville Slugger logo, the bats have the Lauderdale FFA emblem and Buchanan's name burned into them.

    One of the bats was signed by Clarkdale student Dylan Mabry, the 2011 FFA state individual winner in Dairy Evaluation who died in April of injuries sustained in a car accident.

    Today would have been Mabry's 18th birthday and the theft of the bat is upsetting to many students who are still having a difficult time dealing with the death of the popular teenager, Buchanan said.

    "Everything else can be replaced, but the bats can't," Buchanan said.

    Lauderdale County School District Superintendent Randy Hodges said it is important that the thief or thieves are caught.

    "As a district, it is important that they know they are going to pay a consequence, whether it is students or adults, citizens or whatever the case may be," Hodges said. "They are taking away from our students. They are taking away from our community."

    In a meeting with students in the school gym Wednesday morning, Thomas asked that any students who have knowledge of the crime to step forward with the information.

    "I told the students this morning, 'This is your school, this is your stuff. The taxpayers paid for this for you, so if you know anything, have any leads or any information, let us know.'"

    Calhoun said Wednesday afternoon no suspects had yet been identified. He asked that anyone with information pass it on to investigators at the LCSD.

    Those with information about the theft can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 601-485-1860.

    The Meridian Star reporter Brian Livingston contributed to this report.

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