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Chase leads to suspect in robbery

Nov. 28, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Detectives believe an early Wednesday police chase could solve at least one of three armed robberies and lead to the suspect's third parole revocation, according to investigators and state corrections records.

Charles Michael Wentz, 34, was charged Wednesday with felony first-degree burglary in connection with the holdup of a downtown gasoline station. It occurred 2:58 a.m. Wednesday at BP in the 600 block of 5th Avenue. It was the city's third such robbery within 24 hours dating back to midday Tuesday.

Huntington Police Cpl. Josh Coffey said officers reviewed video surveillance at B.P., determined a possible suspect vehicle and distributed that information to officers. A patrol unit then spotted a vehicle matching that description at 3:39 a.m. at a gasoline station in the 1500 block of 6th Avenue.

Cabell County 911 said a chase ensued until the assailant stopped his vehicle and fled on foot in the area of 26th Street.

Wentz was captured nearby, charged with multiple misdemeanors related to the pursuit and incarcerated at the Western Regional Jail. Officials there also detained Wentz on a felony parole violation, according to jail records. The burglary warrant was filed hours later.

Susan Harding, of the state Division of Corrections, said records reviewed Wednesday show Wentz with two prior parole revocations, February 2011 and June 2012. He was released on parole for a third time Nov. 6.

Coffey praised Wednesday's patrol effort as fantastic, but said chasing repeat offenders often proves frustrating.

"Especially when you're dealing with situations of this magnitude where people can get shot an killed," Coffey said. "Just short of a homicide, this is as bad as it gets. He's not a petty thief that we're dealing with. This type of situation is extremely frustrating."

Warrants filed Wednesday solely pertain to the B.P. robbery and the subsequent chase. Coffey said detectives continue investigating a midday robbery at Family Dollar in the 2700 block of 5th Avenue and a 9:53 p.m. holdup at Exxon in the 1400 block of U.S. 60, both of which occurred Tuesday.

Authorities indicate each report involved a man entering the business, demanding money and fleeing the scene with cash. No injuries were reported during any of the incidents.

Coffey said efforts are ongoing to solidify any connection between Wentz and either the earlier of the robberies or other unsolved crimes. He urged anyone with information to call the city's tipline at 304-696-4444.

Wentz's parole stemmed from a 2005 conviction in Cabell County for grand larceny, first-degree robbery and fleeing from an officer while under the influence. The guilty plea had netted him a 5- to 20-year prison sentence, according to Harding's records.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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