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Arrests Made in Vandalism of Okla. Radio Tower

KITX’s tower collapsed after copper thieves severed guy cables

A photo released by the Choctaw County Sheriff’s Department.

Two people suspected of causing catastrophic damage to the tower of Payne Media Group’s KITX(FM) in Hugo, Okla., have been arrested.

The Choctaw County sheriff’s office said they’d nabbed suspects who sold sections of 3-inch copper coax to a metal scrapyard in nearby Paris, Texas.

Matthew Wilson in a mug shot photo on the Facebook page of the Choctaw County Jail.
Matthew Wilson in a photo on the Facebook page of the Choctaw County Jail.

Sheriff Terry Park in a Facebook post identified the suspects as Candice Logan and Matthew Wilson, both of Choctaw County. Thieves had knocked down the tower and cut out and taken 3-inch copper coax line.

According to the social media post with Wilson’s mug shot, he is expected to be charged with entering a building with intent to commit a crime, malicious injury to property and receiving stolen construction equipment. No charges were listed for Logan. A copy of the police report was not made available.

KITX has been streaming online and broadcasting at reduced power from an aux antenna since the collapse. The top half of the 499-foot tower fell on the evening of Jan. 15, after the thieves cut several guy wires, causing an estimated $500,000 in damage, according to the station.

Will Payne, president of Payne Media Group, told Radio World the suspects sold the copper scrap to Paris Iron and Metals the next day. The destroyed tower was in a rural portion of Choctaw County, just north of the Red River. Paris is approximately 30 miles south of Hugo.

Candice logan in a photo on the Facebook page of the Choctaw County Jail.
Candice Logan in a photo on the Facebook page of the Choctaw County Jail.

Paris Iron and Metals on its website does not list the metal it accepts or their prices, but according to the iScrap App, the national 30-day average price for non-ferrous “bare bright copper” scrap is around $3 per pound.

“The police asked us to go to the metal scrapper in Paris to identify the copper. It sure appeared to be the coax from our tower,” Payne said.

Payne says he is preparing to build a new plant to replace the former tower and antenna. “We are covered, but perhaps this will be a good lesson for other broadcasters to make sure their insurance is up to date,” Payne said.

The sheriff in his Facebook post thanked Hugo Police Department Detective Billy Jenkins and the Paris Police Department for their investigative skills in aiding in the arrest of the suspects.

[See photos of the downed tower.]

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