CLEARFIELD – A jury deliberated one hour and 20 minutes Thursday before finding a former administrator of the Curwensville Moose not guilty of burglarizing the lodge and taking over $10,000.
Edward C. Hockenberry, 63, of Curwensville was found not guilty on all charges, which included felony burglary, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property.
Clearfield state police charged Hockenberry on Oct. 30, 2019, alleging he entered the lodge sometime after midnight July 29, 2019 under a blanket, disarmed the security system and removed around $10,400 from a secure area in the back room.
Jurors went into deliberations at approximately 11:43 a.m. and reached a verdict at approximately 1:04 p.m. Ten minutes into deliberations, court reconvened because jurors requested to watch surveillance video from the night in question.
Hockenberry took the stand in his own defense earlier Thursday, saying he joined the Moose in 2003 and over the years, he served in various capacities, such as trustee, treasurer and acting administrator. He also helped as a cook and with Bingo.
He told jurors he was retired, “didn’t need another job” and for that reason, he didn’t seek election as administrator and let Charles Cupp assume the position in April of 2019 without any hard feelings.
When asked by his attorney, Robert J. Freeman of Ebensburg, he denied having ever “bad-mouthed” the lodge, as was testified in court on Wednesday. “It’s a fantastic non-profit organization that helps a lot of people.”
And so, Hockenberry said during his time as acting administrator, he never accepted a paycheck for his work there and always donated it all right back to support the lodge’s programs and activities.
When he transitioned from acting administrator to member, he said he surrendered all keys and paperwork to Cupp and when asked about a set of keys given to him by a former bartender, he said those went to her replacement.
On July 28, 2019, Hockenberry said he went to the lodge to socialize with other members around 7 p.m. and left sometime around 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. He said he went home and didn’t go back out. “I’m an early bird; I get up 4 a.m. – 5 a.m. everyday.
“… That’s not me in the surveillance video. I didn’t break in. I didn’t steal any money. I didn’t have any extra keys,” he told jurors matter-of-factly from the witness stand, adding he gave his only set back to Cupp.
He said when the state trooper showed up July 29, 2019, he was questioned only briefly and he volunteered to let the trooper search his home and vehicle. “He just said I know you did it,” Hockenberry testified, and “… I would hear from him in three days.”
In closing, Freeman argued the commonwealth’s case consisted of a grainy surveillance video and lacked forensic video and fingerprint analysis, implying if there had been a better investigation “we wouldn’t be here.”
Freeman also said Hockenberry would not have “cloaked” himself with a blanket to commit a burglary and massive theft, then parked his car out front for everyone who drove by to see. “That doesn’t even make sense and if that makes you pause and hesitate, you must acquit.”
District Attorney Ryan Sayers disagreed, saying Hockenberry had the keys, security passcode and motive. He said it was clearly an “inside job,” and all the keyholders were ruled out, except for Hockenberry. “He was under the blanket,” Sayers said.