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Former Kanawha schools director arrested for pawning equipment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A former Kanawha County Schools employee pawned school system computers and left the pawn tickets in his desk after he resigned, deputies say.

Authorities working with the U.S. Marshal's CUFFED task force arrested Gary Lee Cochran, 59, Monday in Cabell County after more than a year of searching for him, said Cpl. Brian Humphreys, Kanawha County Sheriff's Department spokesman.

Cochran resigned from his position as the Child Nutrition Director for the county school system on Feb. 22, 2012 but two pawn tickets for computer devices were found when his desk was cleared out a few weeks later, Humphreys said.

Deputy K.D. Hypes began investigating in March 2012 after the school system reported a laptop computer and a tablet stolen. Deputy W.S. Hunter picked up the investigation shortly thereafter when Hypes left on active military duty.

Hunter wrote in a criminal complaint that Cochran took a HP laptop computer from his office to Kanawha Valley Fine Jewelry in Dunbar on Sept. 26, 2011. He pawned the laptop for $250.00.

He returned to the pawnshop on Nov. 14, 2011 with a Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet that he'd checked out from the school system. He pawned the device for $257.93, the complaint said. The devices were worth about $1,535 combined.

The school board apparently sent letters to Cochran asking him to return the devices months before the tickets were found, Humphreys said.

Hunter went to the pawnshop to pick up the items on April 1, 2012, but they didn't open until noon, so Dunbar Patrolman C.M. Shaffer picked up the devices. The items were returned to the school board.

Hunter then obtained an arrest warrant for Cochran, but had difficulty serving it.

Humphreys said deputies tried to serve the warrant several times but couldn't seem to catch up to Cochran.

"He moved from place to place and it felt like we were always several steps behind him," Humphreys said. "Finally we got some good information and that led to his arrest."

The sheriff's department used a tip provided through WCHS's "Fugitive Files" program to track Cochran to a home on Mason Street in Milton. He has been charged with grand larceny.

Pete Thaw, Kanawha County school board president, was delighted to hear Cochran had been arrested, but said the school system shouldn't have been so lax in trying to contact Cochran about returning the items. 

"We find pawn tickets in a guy's drawer and we know stuff is missing but we don't go after him," Thaw said. "We've got to be much more careful with things. He should have been tracked down."

Cochran is being held at South Central Regional Jail on $10,000 surety bond.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.


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