Three of the four people implicated in Sunday’s house explosion on E. 125th Street were barred from selling scrap metal at scrapyards in Ohio, according to officials from the Ohio Department of Homeland Security.
As part of recently-enacted state laws, Craig Kelly, Christopher Glenn and Joseph Vernon are all on a ‘do not buy’ list because of past theft-related convictions.
East Cleveland police believe the three men and an unidentified 27-year-old woman were involved in scrapping metal from the home Sunday afternoon before it exploded. The unidentified woman died at the scene of the explosion. The medical examiner’s office has not released a positive identification.
In an effort to clamp down on the illegal scrapping of metal, state lawmakers passed legislation requiring scrap metal sellers to show their IDs, which are then run through a ‘do not buy’ list of people convicted of theft-related crimes. Scrap metal buyers and recyclers are also required to photograph the seller, in addition to documenting every step of the transaction. Additionally, state law prohibits scrap metal buyers and recyclers from buying precious metals from people who refuse to show their ID.
Glenn, 50, has previous convictions for burglary and theft. Kelly, 51, has a receiving stolen property conviction from a 2016 case, in addition to a theft and misusing credit cards conviction from 2012. Lastly, Vernon, 50, has convictions for breaking and entering, theft and aggravated theft.
According to court records, Kelly’s conviction stemmed from him breaking into a vacant property and stealing precious metals. In Vernon’s conviction in the 2014 case, he broke into a home on E. 125th to steal scrap metals, the same street where the house explosion took place on Sunday.
According to East Cleveland police, the three men and unidentified woman were involved in a scrap metal ring targeting homes in the area. Vernon and Glenn have been taken into custody. Kelly remains at the hospital in critical condition.
Police believe the suspects targeted the home on E. 125th on Sunday afternoon and some of them began to try removing appliances. Upon doing so, police believe it caused the home to fill with natural gas. The state fire marshal is investigating what exactly sparked the blast.
On Tuesday, not long after being named as a suspect, Glenn was taken into custody outside a home on E. 113th Street. Police allege Glenn attempted to sell a stolen water heater earlier in the day.
Tasha Grant and Thomas Houston live at the home that Glenn was arrested outside of on Tuesday. Both Grant and Houston said Glenn was an on-again, off-again maintenance man working for their landlord. The two tenants were shocked to hear Glenn had been implicated in the explosion.
“For any human to be in any explosion is amazing. For him to be in it, that definitely shocked me,” Houston said. “It hits home. He did my work. I hope he wasn’t stealing any of my stuff so I’d blow up. Thank God for that.”
Grant had a harder time believing that Glenn had anything to do with the explosion.
“He was a pretty cool guy, you know. I never saw him get into any trouble,” Grant said. “When I heard his name on the news, I was like, ‘Woah, not Glenn, not him.’ He didn’t do things like that… not that I know of.”
Houston said Glenn stopped by the home on Tuesday afternoon to use the telephone. Both Houston and Grant said Glenn did not have a water heater with him at the time.
“I suspected that he probably got a little high or something from time to time,” Houston said. “But I never expected – I didn’t suspect nothing. [sic] I didn’t expect anything bad from him. He was a good human. He was a good human to me, that’s all I can say.”
Nothing seemed obviously out of the ordinary, Houston said. But, in retrospect, Houston said Glenn appeared to be "a little worried."
“But I didn’t see any panicking or sweating or anything to where I would ask what’s wrong with you. I didn’t see all that,” Houston said.
Never once they did suspect Glenn might be involved in the illegal scrapping of metals, Grant and Houston said. Both described Glenn as very nice and professional.
Glenn’s supervisor, who works for the property management company, described him as a good worker who would do odd jobs for the company when asked. He was not a full-time employee.
The property manager told News 5 that Glenn made a statement to her about the explosion. The property manager said Glenn stated he told the other three suspects – Kelly, Vernon and the unidentified woman – not to go inside the home, but they did so anyway. The property manger told News 5 that Glenn stated he was outside the home at the time of the explosion. The property manager said she encouraged Glenn to turn himself in to ‘clear everything up.’
So far, no charges related to the explosion have been filed. Kelly remains at Metro Hospital in critical condition.