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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Tornado looting suspect: 'Enough time passed'

  • Ayron Casey thought “enough time had passed” since the disaster to justify looting at one of the ravaged houses, a police officer reported.
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  • Nerves remain raw among several thousand Washington residents three weeks after a massive tornado tore through their homes and lives, leaving two dead. A Eureka woman Saturday offered her own perspective.
    Ayron Casey thought "enough time had passed" since the disaster to justify looting at one of the ravaged houses, a police officer reported.
    Casey, 51, became the first person charged in Tazewell County Circuit Court with looting, or stealing property, in the wake of the level EF-4 tornado that destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes in Washington. About 200 more homes were struck by tornado winds in Pekin and East Peoria.
    For days after the Nov. 17 storm, police in all three cities patrolled streets along the tornadoes' paths and closed them to outside traffic and pedestrians. Homeowners were allowed back on their ravaged properties once enough dangerous debris was cleared.
    Both a Washington police officer and a neighbor, however, didn't think Casey belonged midday Saturday at a badly damaged home at 1518 Flossmore Ave. She apparently shared their conclusion.
    "Am I not supposed to be here?" she asked the patrolling officer who, after the neighbor relayed his suspicions, confronted her.
    Casey told the officer she didn't know the home's residents and offered to unload the "various household items" she'd already pulled from its debris and placed in her car, according to a prosecutor's affidavit filed with the charge.
    She acknowledged she didn't have permission to be on the property but thought "enough time had passed" since the tornado, the affidavit stated.
    She cooperated with the officer in taking stock of what she had placed in her car. It contained more than 30 items, including picture frames, holiday decorations, a decorative bell and storage bins, according to the affidavit.
    Casey, of 410 W. Court St., Apt 3, in Eureka, was arrested and charged in bonding court Sunday with looting, a Class 4 felony punishable by probation to three years in prison. She remained in custody Monday on $5,000 bond pending a Dec. 26 preliminary hearing.
    The officer said he also found a variety of pills in her purse that had the appearance of controlled substances. No charges were filed in connection with them.
    In 2001 Casey was sentenced to two years' probation for felony retail theft. The probation was terminated unsuccessfully, according to court records.

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