The Main Courtroom at the Elk County Courthouse was near capacity Monday, with members of the public and witnesses arriving for the first day in the jury trial of Daniel Aiello, 27, of St. Marys, charged with over 100 counts of felony burglary in a spree that spanned 13 months and three counties.
For his alleged role in the crimes, Daniel Aiello is charged with the following: felony burglary; felony and misdemeanor theft by unlawful taking of moveable property; criminal conspiracy; and criminal mischief with damage to property through reckless, negligence, or intention.
In his opening argument Monday, Elk County District Attorney Bradley J. Kraus said the defendant had conspired with his brother, Mark Paul Kimes Aiello, in committing 66 counts of burglary at camps in Elk County, 30 in Cameron, and 15 in McKean County between December 2009 and January 2011.
Twenty-four owners of the area camps involved, some residing as far away as Hershey, Harrisburg, and Butler County, were present Monday, subpoenaed to provide their testimony in the trial.
Many testified that they discovered their camps had been burglarized via calls from friends, neighbors, or police, and each recounted what they had observed upon arriving at their camps following the incidents.
Witnesses described finding entryways pried open or kicked in and the inside of the camps ransacked, with drawers opened and emptied of their contents, furniture upended, and missing items ranging from loose change to antler mounts and taxidermied animals, power tools and a four-wheeler.
A number of witnesses recalled their camps being burglarized twice within a matter of weeks. In his testimony, Russ Braun of St. Marys, owner of a camp in Jones Twp., said he had heard about burglaries in the area and went to check on his camp the day after Christmas. When he arrived, he found the door ajar with signs of forced entry, as well as two sets of footprints in a quarter-inch of fresh snow.
Braun said his inspection of the interior revealed that a flat-screen television and power tools had been taken from inside the structure.
Braun contacted the Emporium-based Pennsylvania State Police and eventually re-secured the structure before leaving.
One week later, the day after New Year's Day, Braun's camp was again burglarized. This time, Braun said the entire doorjamb was demolished and the only item taken was a sign reading, "Welcome to the Cabin."
In testimony heard Monday, description of the damages varied from severe damage requiring repairs to little or no damage.
Additional testimony was received from dozens of camp owners, provided in the form of stipulations stating that the individual owned the camp in question, did not know the defendant, that Aiello did not have permission or reason to enter the camp, and that the camp suffered damage and missing items.
Kraus said the the locations of the camps involved were confirmed by Mark Paul Kimes Aiello, who identified each of them to Trooper Matthew Higgins of the Ridgway-based Pa. State Police.
According to Kraus, Kimes volunteered to go on a ride-along with Trooper Matthew Higgins of the Ridgway-based Pa. State Police, during which he pointed out the locations where he said he and Daniel Aiello had committed the burglaries.