Man sentenced for McDonald's break-ins

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009 6:09 AM EST


Staff Writer

WEST CHESTER — Douglas Michael Pettit worked for three months as an assistant manager at the McDonald’s on Lancaster Avenue in Downingtown.

In that time, however, he must have missed the memo about the video surveillance system in the restaurant.

Pettit was arrested in April after committing two break-ins at the McDonald’s, at one point taking more than $1,000 from the night deposits. Police were able to identify Pettit as the culprit when his former co-workers recognized him from a videotape of the security video.

Judge Howard F. Riley sentenced Pettit, a U.S. Navy veteran and Downingtown native with an extensive criminal record, including drug possession and statutory sexual assault charges in 2001, to 2 to 4 years in a state prison.

The prosecutor in the case had said that Pettit’s continued lawbreaking showed he was not serious about reforming.

“This is a defendant who is not a child anymore,” said Assistant District Attorney Michelle Frei. Nothing the system has done in the past had “gotten his attention or deterred his criminal activities.”

“He has basically worked his way into a state sentence,” Frei told Riley.

However, Pettit’s attorney said that his client would not be served by confining him to a prison without assistance for both his mental health issues and drug addiction.

Thomas Rassman, saying that Pettit was basically a hopeless cocaine addict, asked Riley to order treatment for his client. “This is just a matter of a serious drug issue,” he said. “Unfortunately the demon has got a hold of him and won’t let go.”

Pettit, 40, of Downingtown, pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary, both second-degree felonies.

Pettit, who was on probation for a drug conviction at the time of his arrest, had worked at the McDonald’s from January to March 2008.

According to the arrest affidavits filed by borough police in the case, the first break-in occurred on March 26. Police were called to the restaurant around 4 a.m.

The manger, Sue Gallagher, told police she had arrived at the scene at 3:30 a.m. and saw a rear service door ajar. When she went inside, she checked the safe, which had been pried open, and saw that although cash register drawers were still inside, the night deposit bag was missing.

Police checked the restaurant and found the service door had been pried open, but also that the door had been broken — with some hinges removed — for some weeks before the burglary. The safe door, which was padlocked shut, had been opened with a monkey wrench that had been left by the side of the safe.

When police and store employees checked the video surveillance system they watched as a man wearing blue jeans and a dark long-sleeved shirt entered the office through the rear service door, first checking the safe, then leaving, then returning and apparently using the wrench to pry open the safe door.

The man then reaches into the safe, stands up and leaves through the service door.

Gone from the safe was $1,068.

Police said the surveillance tape clearly showed the man’s face. When the shift supervisor, Steve Clayton, saw the video, he immediately recognized the man as Pettit, and said he was a former employee. Gallagher, called in to watch the same tape, also identified the man in the video as Pettit.

A warrant for Pettit’s arrest was issued that same day.

A day later on March 27, a police officer checking the restaurant found a rear door opened. Although the building was empty, a review of the security camera showed Pettit again enter the building and go to the office where the safe is. It showed him using a large screwdriver to again try to pry open the safe, but was unsuccessful. He left with no money.

Pettit was arrested on April 1 and confessed to the March 27 incident.

As part of his sentence, he will also not be allowed to enter the McDonald’s in Downingtown following his release from prison.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan, send an e-mail to [email protected].