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Man convicted after leaving juice box during church break-in is back in custody

Robert (Bobby) Newell speaks with prosecutor Jude Hall (not pictured) in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s Thursday, shortly before he was convicted of a break-in at a local siding contractor’s office in 2016.
Robert (Bobby) Newell in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John’s during a previous appearance. - Tara Bradbury

Bobby Newell charged with three commercial break-ins this week

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A man convicted last year after he left a juice box with his DNA on it behind during a church break-in is back in custody.

Having served his time in prison for the church robbery as well as another break-in, Newell, 36, was released from custody in early May. Friday afternoon he was back before a judge, asking to be released again after being charged with three new break-ins.

Newell, who has a 52-page criminal record consisting mainly of commercial break-ins and breaches of court orders, is alleged to have broken into three businesses in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Police responded to an alarm at NAPA Auto Parts in C.B.S. at 5 a.m., finding a side door had been forced open and an outside alarm disabled. Nothing appeared to be missing from inside the business, but police located a black cash drawer in the nearby woods containing receipts from Paradise Wall-Beds, a business on Topsail Road.

A witness told police he had seen a blue Pontiac Montana at the scene of the C.B.S. break-in, and had also seen the vehicle "driving weird" on the C.B.S. Highway. Police located the vehicle half an hour later in the parking lot of Tim Hortons in Manuels, with two men inside and a crowbar on the floor. They say the driver identified himself as Newell.

Police detained Newell for questioning, but he declined to speak about the break-in, requesting a ride home, as the vehicle was impounded.

In the meantime, police confirmed there had been a break-in at Paradise Wall-Beds and a third at Riverdale Investments in C.B.S.

Surveillance footage from both businesses showed what police believe was Newell and the blue Montana.

Newell was en route to his house in a police car when he was advised he was under arrest for three counts of break and entry, a charge of possessing a break-in instrument, and three charges of breaching probation orders.

Officers took him to the St. John's lockup and he made a brief court appearance Thursday afternoon before his bail hearing began on Friday. The hearing will continue next week, with Newell expected to take the stand.

Newell was commended on his self-representation at trial by a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge in St. John's last year after he was convicted of breaking into the offices of siding contractor Trico Ltd in June 2016. Justice Alphonsus Faour said while not all of Newell's arguments had been persuasive, they had been put together well. He urged Newell - who acknowledged having long-term issues with drug addiction - to get his life together and use his talents in a productive way.

Two months after the Trico break-in, Newell broke into St. Pius X Church in St. John's, bringing a carton of apple juice with him. When the church priest came around 7:30 a.m. to prepare for mass, he noticed a duffel bag on the floor, as well as a juice carton. He heard a noise and Newell came out of the sacristy, telling the priest he had been using the washroom. He picked up the duffel bag and left.

The court heard there was damage to some of the church’s doors, door frames and drawers, and the pix — a box used to carry the Eucharist to parishioners who are sick or otherwise unable to come to church to take Communion — was missing.

Newell also represented himself at that trial, presenting alternate scenarios, including that the DNA sample on the juice container had been contaminated because the priest had picked it up and taken it into another room without wearing gloves, and that the container may not have been the same one seen in the thief’s hand on the video.

Justice Vikas Khaladkar rejected those ideas and convicted Newell, sentencing him to jail time plus 240 hours of community service upon his release. Newell had requested permission to complete the service at St. Pius X Church.

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