It took a jury about 90 minutes to find a Houtzdale man guilty of stealing a vehicle after a two-day trial in Clearfield County Court.
Bruce Irwin Hockenberry, 58, was found guilty of theft by unlawful taking, a third-degree felony; receiving stolen property, a third-degree felony; and a misdemeanor two count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. In addition, Judge Paul Cherry found him guilty of a summary charge of criminal mischief. He was acquitted of a burglary charge of breaking into the car dealership.
The charges stem from an incident April 24, 2015, in Houtzdale when a vehicle was found missing from Jacob George Ford Sales.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Hockenberry broke a small garage window at the dealership to gain access and get a key to a vehicle. He drove away in a black 2015 Ford Escape, according to the affidavit.
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The vehicle was later found concealed in a wooded area near Hockenberry’s residence by a neighbor. A CD in the vehicle had a fingerprint that matched Hockenberry’s print, police said.
In his closing arguments Tuesday morning, attorney Michael Marshall, who was defending Hockenberry, questioned how his client could have gotten into a locked cabinet in the dealership to retrieve the key to the vehicle. He said the commonwealth offered no explanation for this. There was a broken window there, but Marshall stated that witnesses testified there was more glass inside than outside the business leading it to be more likely the glass was broken from inside.
Marshall also questioned the testimony of three state troopers who said Hockenberry confessed to them the day of his preliminary hearing in December. One of them never reported this, he said. Another documented it in May and the other just a few days before the trial.
District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. in his closing addressed this by reminding the jury that at the time Hockenberry confessed, he had already signed a plea agreement.
The officers thought the case was over. It was only when they realized the case was going to a trial did they think it necessary to make a report.
Shaw reviewed the testimony from the owner of the business who said he had a call regarding an alarm going off in the dealership. He checked the building, found nothing and thought it was a false alarm. In the morning a state trooper arrived at the dealership to have his vehicle serviced and saw the broken glass. After a check of the inventory, they realized a black 2015 Ford Escape was missing.
A man on a four-wheeler came across the vehicle in the woods near Hockenberry’s home, Shaw said. This man remembered reading about the missing vehicle and called police.
Hockenberry had no vehicle other than an old truck that was not licensed, and he “either has to walk or get a ride from someone.” He drove the vehicle around that night and then secured it near his home because “he was not done with it,” Shaw said.
Hockenberry is scheduled to be sentenced July 26. He remains incarcerated at the county jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.