EAST PALESTINE - A man believed to be responsible for the Oct. 20 armed robbery at Hilltop Market is being held in a Pennsylvania jail on related charges.
East Palestine Police Chief Kevin Dickey said in a press release Wednesday that Daniel M. Keller, 22, of New Castle, Pa., admitted to the armed robbery while being interviewed on Friday.
Dickey and Sgt. Donny Johnson went to the Lawrence County, Pa., jail to speak with Keller after Pennsylvania State Police told them Keller was being held there, Dickey said.
"He was pretty forthright about the crime in East Palestine," he said.
The police department had posted information about the crime on a web page hosted by the Ohio Bureau of Identification and Investigation, which is where Pennsylvania police realized Keller may have been responsible for the local robbery as well, Dickey explained.
According to public court documents, Keller previously lived at 380 Spaite Drive in East Palestine. Dickey said he still has family living in the village and that the department is familiar with him.
"Our department has had several dealings with him in the past," he said.
Prior convictions include unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 2011 and obstructing official business and possession of drugs earlier this year. He was charged with theft in 2011 as well but the case was later dismissed in county Municipal Court due to his being indicted in Common Pleas Court. A bench warrant was issued for Keller in May after he failed to appear at a status conference on a breaking and entering charge.
Keller's current address is listed as 400 Reed Road in New Castle. Court documents show he lived at this address in 2009 as well, although he lived on Spaite Drive in the village in 2011.
According to the release, Keller is being held in Pennsylvania in connection with armed robberies in the Enon Valley and New Castle area.
Dickey said he believed those robberies were also at local stores and were not home invasions.
When Keller admitted to Dickey and Johnson that he was responsible for the robbery at Hilltop Market, he said it was because he needed money to buy drugs, Dickey said.
Police went to the store on North Market Street shortly before 9 p.m. Oct. 20 after the female clerk activated the panic alarm.
She told that a man in his mid-20s approached her with a gun and demanded money from the cash register. Police initiated a search of the area along with K-9 Toney but the man wasn't found.
Dickey said at that time he believed the man could have walked to another street and gotten into a car. On Wednesday, he said whether that is what happened is still unknown and the case remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, Keller will remain in the Lawrence County jail until an upcoming session with the Columbiana County grand jury. Village police will present evidence from the Hilltop Market robbery to the grand jury at that time, Dickey said.