Catawba man charged in marina break-ins

Lincoln County sheriff's deputies arrested two men Saturday for multiple counts of felony breaking and entering, and the Catawba County Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday that the men could face additional charges for similar break-ins in the Sherrills Ford community.

Bobby Lee Fish Jr., 30, of Catawba, and Richard Allen Champion Jr., 22, of Lincolnton, were each charged with 18 counts of felony breaking and entering a watercraft, one count of felony conspiracy to commit larceny and one count of felony larceny.

Two Lincoln County sheriff's deputies were on routine patrol along the water line of the Denver Marina on Saturday at 1:35 a.m. when they discovered evidence of a possible break-in, according to Larry Seagle, of the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

Lincoln County deputies R. Alger and D. Richard saw a hole cut into the chain-link fence surrounding the marina, located at 3333 N.C. 16 North.

Deputies left their patrol vehicle and found several boat batteries stacked against the fence. At the same time, they saw one suspect run through the Denver Marina lot and climb a fence on the south side of the marina near Denver Drive.

Alger and Richard returned to their patrol car and drove to Denver Drive, where they located a brown, four-door Honda attempting to leave the area. Two white males were in the Honda, and Alger ordered them out of the car.

Deputies found pliers and wire cutters on the vehicle's floorboard, and they also located 48 vehicle batteries, valued at $25,000. The batteries were returned to the owners.

Fish and Champion can also face additional charges from Catawba County sheriff's deputies after an investigation into similar marina crimes in lake communities throughout Sherrills Ford.

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said a detective from the sheriff's office was in route to Lincoln County about 11 a.m. Tuesday to see if the Denver incident is related to the break-ins and larcenies in Sherrills Ford.

The incidents started in October when boat owners on Fighting Creek Road, Radford Court and Stonewall Street reported missing boat batteries, cut fuel lines and stolen gasoline from their watercraft.

Reid said majority of the victims noticed the thefts when they tried to start their boat's ignition, and nothing happened. He told The O-N-E in November that offenders probably chose this time of year to start stealing batteries because people use their boats less in colder weather.

People who steal boat batteries typically sell the batteries' lead cores for 30 cents a pound, according to Reid.

The latest incident in Sherrills Ford was reported at about 3 p.m. Friday, less than 12 hours before Fish and Champion were arrested in Denver.

According to an incident report from the Catawba County Sheriff's Office, someone from Lake Norman Marina at N.C. 150 East in Sherrills Ford reported the theft of 28 marine batteries and damage of 28 plastic shrink boat covers. Damage reported from the thefts is estimated at $11,760.

According to the reporting party, the incident was discovered Jan. 10.

Reid said additional charges will be filed against Fish and Champion, if and when they're connected to the Sherrills Ford larcenies and break-ins.

Fish, in addition to the breaking and entering charges, was served outstanding warrants from Randolph County. The charges included one count each of Felony B and E larceny, felony possession of stolen goods and possession of a firearm by a felon. Fish was released from jail on a $42,000 secured bond, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

Champion was also served with additional warrants for driving while license revoked and failure to appear. His bond was set at $22,300 secured, and he is no longer listed as an inmate on Lincoln County's website.