Man not guilty of Inn robbery
A Berkeley Springs man was found not guilty last week of robbing The Country Inn and forcibly restraining the night watchman during a break-in on July 30, 2008.
A jury found Daniel Robert Lee, 29, not guilty after deliberating less than half an hour last Thursday afternoon, October 8, in Morgan County Circuit Court.
During the two-day trial, jurors were told by the prosecution that Lee had broken into the inn and stolen $4,500, but none of the money was ever recovered.
No fingerprints or DNA evidence were found at the scene. Nor could the night watchman identify Lee, who was unknown to him. There was no security camera footage of the incident.
The only evidence against Lee was the testimony of his former girlfriend Andrea Mathai, 34. Last March, when she was no longer living with Lee, Mathai told Sheriff's Investigator Tim Stapleton that Lee had committed the crime.
Mathai was then seeking Stapleton's help in regaining custody of her children who were living with her mother due to Mathai's legal problems, according to testimony.
When defense attorney Nicholas Colvin cross-examined Mathai about this conversation, he asked her directly if she would lie for her children, and she said yes.
Both Lee and Mathai were first questioned by Investigator Stapleton on
the morning of the robbery. At that time, Mathai said
Lee had been with her all night at their home on Burnt Mill Road near Berkeley Springs, according to testimony.
Police went to the residence because Lee's name had come up when inn owner Nancy Sostaric was asked if any ex-employees fit the watchman's description of a tall thin man who would have known his way around the inn's front desk and office area.
Both Lee and Mathai had worked at The Country Inn for a while the previous year and had left the inn in November, 2007.
When Stapleton questioned Lee on July 30, 2008, the suspect had $500 cash that
he was about to take to his landlord for rent, Stapleton said.
see ROBBERY page 11
The crime took place around 1:30 a.m., night watchman Vernon "Bob" Clark told the jury.
Clark said he had just finished sliding bills under guests' doors and making the rounds of the second and third floors. He returned to the lobby, sat down in a chair and heard the cash register open at the front desk.
Standing there was a thin man in dark, loose clothing and dirty sneakers. He had a bandanna over the bottom half of his face and a ball cap pulled down to his eyes. He wore brown kid gloves and was armed with a knife, Clark said.
The robber approached Clark and said in a soft voice, "Do as I say and you won't get hurt."
Clark was taken to an office behind the check-in desk and duct-taped to a chair.
The robber went straight to a closet and safe where the day's cash was kept at the time. He put cash bags into a bigger bag.
Clark managed to work his hands free and after the robber had left, he called the inn's owner who contacted police.
During her testimony, Mathai repeatedly said that she couldn't recall specific times and dates because her memory had been damaged when she was hit by a truck as a girl. She said drug and alcohol problems have also affected her memory.
Mathai couldn't remember how long she had worked at the inn as a housekeeper.
She said she believed Lee had robbed the inn, but that she had passed out that night because she was "messed up" from drug use.
Lee later came into the bedroom with money in bags, she said.
Lee was indicted last April for robbery, kidnapping (restraining the watchman) and destruction of property (damaging a rear door in the break-in).
The jury found him not guilty of all charges.
Lee is presently incarcerated in the Eastern Regional Jail for parole violations in an unrelated case.