Sullivan school officials explain why laptops were in burglarized warehouse

Rick Wagner • Oct 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Why were up to 200 laptop computers in the Sullivan County school system’s central warehouse recently when the facility was broken into?

They were there to get Sullivan County metal identification tags, be etched with similar ownership information, be repackaged, and then be sent out to the schools, according to school officials.

The question has come up since news emerged about the theft of items last week from the warehouse, the old Holston High School near Tri-Cities Regional Airport. One of the laptops was taken in the theft.

“That’s receiving,” school system spokeswoman Janie Barnes said Friday. “Everything goes through and is tagged before it goes to the schools.”

Director of Schools Jack Barnes said earlier reports of 200 laptops may have been a bit high, but he said there were at least 75 there.

He said one person is in charge of putting the tags and etchings on each item, and a large shipment of computers can take awhile to process.

The software is loaded onto computers after they are shipped to the schools.

School officials Thursday announced the results of an investigation into the theft of alcohol from the warehouse. Jack Barnes issued a written reprimand and suspended warehouse manager Martin Wright for a week without pay after Wright admitted to putting two gift boxes of alcohol from a textbook company representative in a locked filing cabinet about a year ago.

The warehouse, located at 580 Holston Drive in Blountville, was broken into in the early morning on Oct. 21. Later that day, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office arrested a suspect, Larry J. Fleenor Jr., 780 Hamilton Road, Blountville.

Fleenor allegedly admitted to the break-in and stealing several items, which according to an offense report filed at the sheriff’s office included a laptop computer, two cameras, eight pornographic DVDs, a Jack Daniel’s gift box, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and Chivas Regal Scotch.

Sullivan County Board of Education attorney Pat Hull said Thursday the board’s investigation failed to show any connection between school employees and the DVDs, and that no one claimed to have any knowledge of porn being on the premises.

As for the liquor, Wright admitted he was the one responsible for it being stored on school property, Hull said. Wright said he’d intended to deliver the liquor to a professional organization he belongs to for use as a door prize.

Wright’s explanation was “corroborated by the surrounding evidence,” Hull said in a prepared statement.

One bottle was in a manufacturer’s gift box, and both bottles were in bags indicating they had come from a book publisher.

Times-News staff writer Kacie Dingus Breeding contributed to this report.

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