Man convicted in likely largest metal theft in state history

SEATTLE -- Donald Turpin spent nine months crawling underneath the miles of elevated light rail track that stretch between Rainier Beach and Sea-Tac Airport, removing 55,000 pounds of copper wiring and dropping it to the street below to be picked up later.

Last week, the 55-year-old was convicted of burglary, theft, trafficking in stolen property and leading organized crime for his part in what is likely the largest metal theft in Washington State history, according to the King County Prosecutor's Office. He now faces 12 to 16 years in prison.

From November 2010 to August 2011, Turpin and his accomplice, Lee Skelly, entered maintenance hatches in the tunnels below the Sound Transit Light Rail tracks and removed copper wiring used to ground stray electricity from the system.

Turpin was identified through DNA left on items, including Gatorade bottles, found inside the tunnels.

Turpin used a state-issued business license to scrap the copper with relative ease, earning himself approximately $50,000 in profits. According to the King County Prosecutor's Office, the copper wire was worth more than $200,000 and would cost approximately $1.3 million to replace.

Skelly, 45, was also convicted of theft for his involvement and faces up to 90 days in jail.