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3 defendants accused of stealing plead not guilty

Three individuals accused of collaborating to steal from Dickinson's Kmart in late May will proceed with further hearings after each pleaded not guilty Monday.

Co-defendants Alexis M. Krank, Claude Joseph Mercier and Jason L. Schultz appeared for preliminary hearings on charges of criminal conspiracy at Southwest District Court in Dickinson.

Schultz and Mercier allegedly stole approximately $1,800 in merchandise from the store on May 25 and left the Prairie Hills Mall in a vehicle that was allegedly driven by Krank, according to the criminal complaint.

But attorney Travis Wayne Finck, who is representing Schultz, said the state's case fails to show that the three defendants actually worked together to steal anything.

"The one thing the state doesn't have to show a conspiracy is an agreement," Finck said. "A conspiracy requires an agreement."

Stark County Assistant State's Attorney Tom Henning said that the agreement between the parties does not need to be explicit in order for the defendants to be charged with conspiracy.

Henning said a witness indicated there was a female driver and that two people were hurriedly loading items into the vehicle at the back of the store before it sped away.

When Dickinson police officers pulled over the vehicle with the three defendants in it a few minutes after the alleged theft, they found items with their security devices still on. Some of the security devices were found detached in the car, two Dickinson Police Department officers testified at the hearing.

Officer Todd Weiler, who assisted with stopping the vehicle, said there is video surveillance that shows Krank leaving the store after making a purchase and Mercier placing a TV on a cart in the store. However, Mercier and Schultz were not captured on video leaving the store.

Items allegedly stolen included a TV, paintball guns, clothes and food.

Officer Jayden Peters testified at the hearing that he could see numerous packages in the vehicle as he approached it.

After identifying Krank, Peters said he spoke to both her and Mercier, whose stories on how the items got in the vehicle varied but were similar.

"They would not admit that anything was stolen, but they were all in possession of the items and could not provide any receipts," Peters said.