Blackout caused by couple charged with stealing power lines, SC sheriff says

Noah Feit
·2 min read

A South Carolina couple was locked up on charges that they stole power lines and caused a Midlands-area outage, the Clarendon County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Michael Wayne Buttery, 58, and Kimberly Kay Buttery, 55, were arrested each on the felony charge of obtaining non-specious metals unlawfully, and more charges are pending, Sheriff Timothy Baxley told The State.

“They were stealing the lines for the copper wire,” Baxley said. “Some of those lines don’t have any insulation, and are just pure copper wire inside.”

Copper wire theft is an issue across the country as scrap metal dealers will pay good prices for the copper, which is relatively easy to steal from unguarded locations, Slate reported.

This white Ford service truck led investigators to make arrests, according to the sheriff's office.
This white Ford service truck led investigators to make arrests, according to the sheriff's office.

In this case, the couple from Summerville disguised their intent by using a white Ford service truck with a bucket on the rear that gave the appearance of an official vehicle used by a power company employee, according to Baxley.

“They were using the truck because it looks like it would fit in, and belonged there,” Baxley said.

Ultimately it was the truck that led investigators to arrest the husband and wife.

On Feb. 11, power crews responding to an outage in the area near U.S. 521/Greeleyville Highway near downtown Manning discovered power lines had been cut down and copper wire was stripped from the poles, according to the sheriff’s office.

It was the latest of several similar incidents that had occurred in the past few months, and the next day the sheriff’s office reached out to the community for information that could help lead to an arrest.

The plea worked as Baxley said a tip came in on Feb. 27 that “something that didn’t look right” in the same area involving the truck. It led deputies to the Butterys, who were arrested. During a search, deputies found “multiple tools consistent with this type of theft,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Among the other charges they could face are counts of tampering with telephone lines, Baxley said.

If convicted on the metals felony, each would face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and fines, according to South Carolina law.

Clarendon County Court records show a $5,000 bond was set for Kimberly Buttery on Tuesday, but no bond has been set for her husband.

Kimberly Butttery is facing pending drug charges from a May 2019 arrest for two counts of distribution of methamphetamine, Dorchester County court records show.

The sheriff did not know if the couple from the Charleston area was working with anyone else, but said just because they are in custody does not stop the other ongoing investigations into wire thefts.

Baxley did issue a warning to anyone involved with cutting down power lines. Along with being illegal, the sheriff said it is “very dangerous.”