Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

October 3, 2013

Code inspection yields arrest and water theft finding


Mineral Wells Index

— By CLINT FOSTER

When the Mineral Wells Police Department was called to assist the city’s code enforcement and inspections department at a house Tuesday afternoon, they discovered a lot more than they originally expected.

Police received a call around 3 p.m. to assist code enforcement, who were looking into a residence with some property order maintenance issues and a possible breach of public utilities. Upon arrival, police reported a “tremendous amount of unkempt debris” at the property. They found a woman inside the home who did not give her name and claimed to have no forms of identification.

Before long, the owner of the property showed up and informed police that no one was supposed to be there, evident by “no trespassing” signs posted around the area, according to a police spokesperson.

Police found out the woman, now identified as a trespasser, was Melinda Smith, a 35-year-old from Mineral Wells who had an outstanding parole warrant and an offense of failure to identify a fugitive. Smith was arrested and booked into Palo Pinto County Jail.

With Smith arrested, police and code enforcement continued to investigate the property.

Officials noticed that the power had been disconnected, but the house still had running water – although the water department said that utility was supposed to be shut off.

According to police, when they removed the utility access cover – where the water meter had been removed because the bill was not being paid – lo and behold, they discovered unknown subjects had manufactured a water-tap bypass of sorts connecting the city’s main line to the feed line that went inside the house.

Police showed the Index a photo of the creative bypass, which will be processed as evidence. It was a jimmy-rigged combination of duct tape, two faucet heads and various other pipes and, even, welding.

Perhaps the Super Mario Brothers couldn’t have come up with this creation.

Police explained that making such a bypass to steal water is actually a felony charge. But stealing the water was not the only issue at hand.

“Of particular concern, given the shortages of water, [was] this little makeshift bypass splice device was leaking profusely and had saturated the ground all around the access cover,” Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan said.

Sullivan said detectives and code enforcement are currently working to determine whether additional charges should be placed on Smith for stealing the water or if someone else was responsible. Police are seeking one or two other individuals who were likely involved.