Former Columbia park ranger accused of home burglaries

nophillips@thestate.comJuly 31, 2013 

— A former Columbia city park ranger has been arrested after being accused of using his job to scout homes to break into and for monitoring city radios to let other burglars know if police were on the way.

Orlando Reeves, 31, was arrested Friday on charges of first-degree burglary and petit larceny for a home break-in committed in July 2012. Reeves stole a 12-gauge shotgun from the home, said Hans Pauling, a prosecutor with the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s office.

Reeves was known as “the park ranger” to two other men who have been arrested on dozens of burglary charges and by a third man who is a suspect in burglaries, Pauling said.

Reeves appeared before Judge Alison Lee on Wednesday afternoon to ask for a bond. He told the judge he needed to be released to help care for his four children.

Lee granted him a $200,000 bond, but he must pay the full amount rather than putting 10 percent down. If Reeves makes bond, then he will be placed on house arrest with electronic monitoring, Lee said.

The bond hearing drew more than a dozen residents from the College Place, Hyatt Park/Keenan Terrace and Hampton neighborhoods. City Council members Leona Plough and Moe Baddourah and interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago also attended.

Bonds given to people who have been accused of multiple crimes have been a sore spot in Columbia after the July 1 shooting death of 33-year-old Kelly Hunnewell. Two of the three men charged with murder in her death were on bond when it happened. One of them had been given a bond by Lee.

That revelation led Mayor Steve Benjamin to create a panel that is supposed to come up with recommendations on the bond system.

Pauling asked Lee to deny Reeves bond, saying he had the means to leave town and that he was a danger to the community because he was involved in two burglaries in which guns were stolen. If convicted of both burglary charges, Reeves faces life in prison.

Reeves’ first arrest came in August 2012, when he was charged with first-degree burglary. Police said he kicked in the front door of a home in the Hampton Farms neighborhood and stole about 30 guns valued at $50,000, according to earlier police reports.

He was arrested on that burglary charge at South East Park on Hazelwood Road while working for the city’s parks and recreation department, according to a Columbia Police Department press release from August 2012. That release said Reeves was no longer employed with the city, but he told the judge Wednesday that he was on “investigatory suspension” and would be reinstated if he was acquitted.

Reeves’ second arrest came Friday, but the crime he is accused of was committed before the August 2012 burglary.

Todd Rutherford, Reeves’s defense attorney, argued for a lower bond, saying his client had reported for all court dates and had turned himself in last week after police notified him of a positive DNA match from the scene.

“This is not his trial,” Rutherford said. “This is merely his bond setting. Under the Constitution of the United States, he stands here as an innocent man.”

After the hearing, Ellen Fishburne Triplett, president of the Hyatt Park/Keenan Terrace neighborhood association, said she was pleased with the bond, especially since it was set by Lee, who had been under criticism after the Hunnewell case.

Pauling and Santiago met with the neighborhood residents in the courthouse lobby to explain the bond process and progress on the case.

“She gave him something that I think is reasonable but that he cannot make,” Pauling said.

Santiago told the group that their attendance was important even though no one spoke.

“You don’t know how much weight you pull,” Santiago said.

WATCH: Watch Hans Pauling explain Orlando Reeves' bond

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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