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Zera jailed for stealing copper from vacant farm

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MASSENA - Massena-based state police charged Daniel A. Zera Jr., 31, of 351 East Orvis St., Apt. 16, Massena, with third-degree burglary, criminal possession of burglar tools and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon following an investigation into an incident at 6:33 p.m. Monday on Rooseveltown Road.

Cynthia Prescott, 24, of Massena was also charged with third-degree burglary in connection with that incident. Zera and Prescott were charged with entering outbuildings at a vacant farm at 369 Rooseveltown Road and removing copper wire and cable. The property is owned by Ellen B. Ayotte.

Troopers said Zera also claimed ownership of two double edged daggers found in the trunk of the vehicle being driven by Prescott.

Zera was arraigned by Massena Town Justice Gerald P. Sharlow and sent to the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility with bail set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond. Prescott was also arraigned by Judge Sharlow and released under the supervision of the probation department.

Zera said he and Prescott, his girlfriend for the past three years, had been on their way to the reservation to purchase cigarettes at 6:45 p.m. Monday when they started arguing.

“I told her to pull over, and I was getting out. She pulled over, and I grabbed my back pack. I walked around and smoked a marijuana joint outside of a barn,” he noted in the statement he reportedly signed for troopers.

Zera told police he had seen three people walking about that same barn pulling out rusted metal and putting it in the trunk of a vehicle approximately three weeks earlier. He said he decided to go inside the barn and look around and saw copper wire lying on the floor.

He said he grabbed wire clippers he found inside the barn, started cutting up the wire and filled his backpack with it. “I saw a police car driving around outside. I put the wire snippers down the front of my pants and left my backpack in the barn. I didn’t want to get caught with all the wire. I could hear police walking around, and I could hear their radios going off,” he admitted.

Zera he snuck through the fields to the roadway hoping his girlfriend would return to the area. He said he didn’t have a cell phone with service to contact her but was able to flag her down on her third pass through the area. “I opened her car door and was starting to get into her car when the police pulled up and told me to freeze,” he recalled.

Prescott, in her statement to police, said the couple have been experiencing financial problems and are behind on paying their rent and bills. She said on a previous trip to the reservation to buy cigarettes they had seen two people walking out of what appeared to be an abandoned barn on the Rooseveltown Road with buckets that Zera figured contained scrap metal.

“When Danny saw those kids, he mentioned that they probably had copper in the buckets, and there was probably more in the building, and he could probably get $20 worth of copper from there. Danny talks about stealing when he wants money and is sick of being behind,” she told police, noting she hadn’t paid much attention to his rant.

She said she always tells her boyfriend to just wait and they will figure something out, but she said it is difficult to change Zera’s mind after he develops a plan. She said on the evening of May 7 when they were leaving for the reservation she saw her boyfriend grab the bookbag that she knew contained wire snippers.

“I then knew he would want me to drop him off by that barn on Rooseveltown Road so he could steal some copper. I told him that I was going to get some cigarettes but I wasn’t going to drop him off there and that he was stupid,” she said, noting he replied by asking her if she was sick of being poor. “I was thinking the way Danny wanted to get money, by stealing from the barn, was not the way for us to get money and that we should get it honestly.”

She said tensions were high on the road trip because her boyfriend knew she was mad at him. But she said she did drop him off just before the Hall Road. “I was mad because I knew he was going to steal copper from that barn. I didn’t notify the police because I love Danny, and I didn’t want him to get in any trouble. I figured since it looked like an abandoned building it wouldn’t be a big deal for him to take copper from there,” Prescott added.

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