State files additional charges against Santa Clara man following alleged crime spree

ST. GEORGE — Charges continue to pile up for a Santa Clara man accused of multiple burglaries, thefts and other crimes committed throughout St. George, adding to more than 30 cases for the suspect with a criminal history spanning decades.

On Thursday, the Washington County Attorney’s Office filed multiple charges against 51-year-old Ward Sydney A. Lee, following an incident that has been under investigation since April when the owners of a business reported that their shop was broken into and more an $3,100 in cash and other items were stolen.

Officers responded and learned that the night before, a suspect broke into the business and took $160 from the register that sustained $200 in damage when the suspect busted it open.

More than $3,000 in camera equipment was also taken during the break-in.

Surveillance footage later recovered by police showed an older man enter the rear of the building shortly after 9 a.m. And when the suspect reached the front office, officers could see the man turn the surveillance system off.

Ward Sydney A. Lee,51, of Santa Clara, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Sept. 14, 2020 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Officers considered Lee a person of interest in the case, who was also the primary suspect in multiple other burglary reports that were still under investigation by police.

After reviewing the footage, officers determined that Lee fit the description of the suspect involved in the photo business burglary, noting that Lee also walked with a similar gait as the suspect in the footage.

During an interview at the jail Wednesday, the suspect denied any involvement in the recent crimes and told officers “he was done talking.”

Lee has been in jail since his arrest Sept. 15, when officers recognized the suspect from a number of unrelated burglaries reported in the area during a traffic stop.

A Washington County prosecutor, who was handling several other cases involving the suspect, reviewed the footage recovered by police and found that Lee matched the description of the man in the footage, and told the officer there was probable cause to file charges related to the burglary. The following day, two third-degree felony charges, one count of burglary and one count of theft were filed, along with misdemeanor criminal mischief for damaging the cash register.

Lee was also charged for two break-ins at Empire Waste Services that reportedly took place a month apart. The first incident was reported in June, when the suspect allegedly pried one of the doors open and entered the building where he reportedly took a cash box containing more than $3,000.

Ward Sidney Lee, 50, of Santa Clara, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Jan. 21, 2020 | File photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Surveillance footage showed the suspect riding away from the business on a bicycle carrying what appeared to be a metal cash box, the same bicycle that was later found in front of a residence nearby, according to the affidavit filed in support of the arrest warrant.

In August, the business was broken into a second time and nearly $30,000 worth of items were reportedly stolen, including a $28,000 Snap-on scanning tool. The burglary also caused an estimated $600 in damage to the building. Lee was later charged with second-degree felony theft, for the scanning tool, along with two counts of burglary and two counts of theft, each a third-degree felony.

Also in June, Lee was the primary suspect in a break-in reported at a storage yard on 900 East where a drone kit valued at nearly $1,600 was stolen. The theft was captured on surveillance footage that showed a suspect matching Lee’s description. He was later charged with felony theft and misdemeanor vehicle burglary.

In January, Lee was arrested by St. George Police on a warrant issued in October out of 5th District Court after he failed to appear for a hearing involving three third-degree felony counts of burglary and a felony theft charge, along with misdemeanor gun and criminal mischief charges. In that case, the suspect allegedly broke into several storage units in September of last year.

As the suspect was being booked in jail, officers then discovered that Lee had multiple previous convictions for theft burglaries, aggravated assault and being in possession of a dangerous weapon. Lee’s criminal history includes more than 30 cases and a number of prison sentences dating back to at least 1988, according to information found in court and arrest records.

Lee remains in custody on the four open cases and is being held on $52,000 bail.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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