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Man, 81, accused of vandalism at Merriam business, 9 years after probation for same crime

Updated: 2013-02-19T16:28:27Z

By TONY RIZZO

The Kansas City Star

“Not again.”

That thought came to Dan Leap when he arrived in December at his business on Merriam Drive and saw that someone had fired a bullet or pellet through the front window.

For Leap, a former Merriam City Council member, it brought back a series of similar vandalism incidents in 2004 that ended with the prosecution of a 72-year-old Shawnee man.

But this had to be someone different, Leap figured.

“I just thought it was a coincidence,” Leap said. “These kinds of things are common.”

In January, it happened again, and Leap couldn’t help but reach a disturbing conclusion.

“It’s got to be the same guy,” he thought.

A third incident a few days later cinched it for Leap.

Now, Johnson County prosecutors think he was right. The same Shawnee man, now 81, is charged in Johnson County District Court with two counts of criminal damage to property.

The felony counts allege that the December and January incidents each caused more than $1,000 in damage.

Charles Wesley Worthington was booked into the Johnson County Jail on Friday and released after posting a $5,000 bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 26, according to court records.

Reached by phone Monday, Worthington said he had no comment.

Leap said he is perplexed about why he was targeted again. He has been told it will cost more than $1,000 to replace the still-broken window.

“I’ve never talked to the guy,” Leap said of Worthington. “I’ve never been introduced to him. Never met him.”

In 2004, Leap was a councilman. He believed that the vandal who broke his windows a half-dozen times back then was politically motivated by a dispute over parking along Merriam Drive, where Leap operates his business, GuitarLamp.

Police focused on Worthington in 2004 because the van he drove was in the area at the time of one of the incidents, and one of Leap’s relatives got the license plate number.

Leap said that his store surveillance camera has captured the same van driving past the store again.

In the earlier case, Worthington was placed on probation after pleading guilty to criminal damage to property. He was ordered to pay $1,800 in restitution.

Afterward, Leap obtained a civil protection order, which Worthington violated in 2005. He pleaded guilty and again was placed on probation, according to court records.

That was the last time Leap heard anything about Worthington — until the latest incidents.

“It’s been two years since I’ve been on the council or in politics,” Leap said.

Much of the damage in 2004 was caused by metal nuts being fired from a slingshot, he said. Police recovered similar items after the two January vandalism incidents.

Since the incidents, Leap again has gone to court to obtain a protection order against Worthington. A hearing on that case is scheduled for Feb. 21.

As a condition of his bond, Worthington has been ordered to have no contact with Leap and to stay away from his home and business.

“I hope that this time he gets some real punishment,” Leap said. “At least I hope he has to pay me for the windows and he gets some jail time — and take away his drivers license.”

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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