Men accused of stealing from tornado victims share their side of story

They're accused of stealing from people who lost everything. Four men are in the Laurel County Detention Center after state police say they tried to take scrap metal from tornado victims.

Debris from the storms in East Bernstadt scattered fields and blocked roads. This week, volunteers came in to help clear it all out.

"We was wanting in the tornado area to work so we went to the fire chief in East Bernstadt and asked him, says Roger Smith with RNS Tree Service. Smith claims he and his sons Roger D. Smith and Ricky Trenton had picked up debris in the area before, and this week was no different.

"It was a gravel road where we was at. A few pieces of tin in a ditch. Picked them up, put them in the back of the truck, state troopers pulled up."

The older Smith says they were just clearing scrap metal out of the road, but troopers say the younger Smith admitted they were going to sell it. So they charged all four with theft, and brought them to the Laurel County Detention Center.

"They said we could put it in the pile, just get it out of the way, and then after everything was said and done with the FEMA thing there then they'd figure out what we could do with it or not do with it. But really the only thing we was trying to do, we was trying to do a good deed for the community," recalls Smith's son Ricky Trenton.

State police say volunteers were only instructed to carry debris to the edge of the road, not to put it in a pick up. Smith is afraid his family tree service business will suffer from what he's calling a big mix up.

"People in East Bernstadt, people around Manchester, know me. They know I don't do that. They know I get out and work. Every day," says Smith.


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