KELSO - The Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office has made four arrests in connection with the phone wire thefts that caused phone outages Jan. 18-19.

Two men, Kevin Sexton, 40, of Kelso and Samuel Otton, 42, no address listed, were arrested at a Kalama motel last Tuesday evening.

Sexton and Otton were implicated in the series of recent phone wire thefts that caused communication disruptions from Kelso to the Washington and Oregon coasts. Both are accused of cutting, stripping, burning and selling the wire in these cases. They were charged with first-degree theft and first-degree possession of stolen property.

On Monday afternoon, the sheriff's office arrested two women in connection with the wire thefts. Ashley Riley, 20, and Kara Huttunen, 36, of Longview were charged with first-degree theft and first-degree possession of stolen property.

Over the past few weeks, up to a dozen thefts of phone cable have been reported. It appears suspects arrive at a location at night, climb a telephone pole and cut hundreds of feet of wire at a time. According to Cowlitz County Sheriff's Capt. Mark Nelson, the recent thefts have amounted to "well over half a mile" of cable altogether in Cowlitz and Columbia counties.

The thieves melt the plastic coating from the wire and take it to a metal recycler out of the area. No local scrap metal recyclers have been identified as being involved in taking of this scrap metal. Local recyclers have been very cooperative in assisting with these investigations.

Nelson said his office has adjusted some of its patrols to keep an eye out for wire theft but is still looking to the public to report suspicious activity.

Nelson said the investigation into the thefts is continuing. Anyone with information is requested to call Cowlitz County Sheriff's Deputy Craig Shelton at (360)577-3092, or Crime Stoppers at (360)577-1206.

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