Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Book Thief in Billings

Greg Tuttle of the Billings Gazette brings us yet another tale of book theft, this one from Big Sky Country, where Richard Edward Covington, 44, has been arraigned on a felony theft charge "related to the disappearance of rare and valuable books from Parmly Billings Library." Covington, already in jail on charges of robbing and knifing a 46-year-old woman in April, appeared in court via video, "pleaded not guilty to the felony theft charge, and Judge Gregory Todd set his bond at $5,000. The judge ordered the bond concurrent with a $250,000 bond set in April, when Covington was charged with robbery."

"According to an affidavit filed in the theft case, Billings police began investigating the theft of nine rare books from the library's "Montana Room" collection in May. The stolen books included one about frontier life published in 1877 and valued at $550. Another book, published in 1904, about the Lewis and Clark expedition and valued at $650 was also among the stolen library property.

A library employee told a police detective that she learned of the theft when a local book dealer called her. The book dealer reported that a man had come to his store and wanted to sell eight rare books he found in a "free books" bin at the library. The books appeared very old and had price stickers attached to them ranging from $400 to $900.

The same man returned in April and tried to sell a ninth book, the book dealer said. ... The book dealer paid the man $40 for the books and had him fill out a receipt. The receipt was found in a journal kept by Covington when a police SWAT team raided his house, prosecutors allege." The raid was related to Covington's arrest on the robbery charge.

But wait, there's more.

"According to Covington's wife, Doris Covington, Richard Covington is the primary suspect in the slayings of three people last September. The deaths of Norman Leighton, 69, his companion Patti Hubbert, 54, and the couple's neighbor, Gerald Morris, 43, remain unsolved. Police have said they haven't ruled out involvement by Covington. The case remains under investigation, and no charges have been filed."


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