Rest area plagued by urinators

YORK, NE (Omaha World-Herald News Service) – A couple from Benedict is accused of consistent urination at I-80 rest areas in York County which resulted in the damage of public property.

According to the York County Sheriff’s Department, a search warrant was issued for a residence at 204 Elmer Avenue in Benedict where Timothy J. Welch, 37, and Victoria M. Gilbert, 29, after they became suspects in this bizarre case.

According to the affidavit in support of a search warrant filed with the York County District Court, the sheriff’s department was dispatched to the office of the Nebraska Department of Transportation (DOT) in York regarding ongoing criminal mischief that had been occurring at the York westbound rest area and later at the eastbound rest area.

Investigators spoke with a contractor that was hired to maintain those rest areas.

The sheriff’s department learned that someone had been going to the women’s restrooms at the rest areas, where the person or persons were urinating on the toilet paper rolls and blocking the sensors so the toilets would not flush. The person or persons were also urinating on the walls and in the sinks.

“It got so bad that they decided to close down the westbound rest area while an attendant was not there,” the affidavit says. “Attendants are currently there from 6:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. At first, it was only occurring at the westbound rest area but once they closed that facility the subject moved to the eastbound rest area and continued to do the same thing.”

The investigator said the problem started on Dec. 26 and consistently continued, many times over. Due to the nature of the incidents, it was suggested to the DOT that they put up a video camera inside the rest area to video any people coming through the doors.

In two videos, according to the sheriff’s department, a man is seen entering the rest area and immediately going to the women’s restroom. He was dressed in a blue coat with a hood up and had a partially covered face. His facial hair was visible. He was also wearing a black stocking hat with a lamp attached to it. Investigators say he was seen entering the restroom at 10:46 p.m., on a particular night, and leaving the restroom at 11:32 p.m. On this night, the rest area appeared to be very slow for activity.

On the video from another night, the man was seen being accompanied by a woman who was “wearing a brown coat that looks similar to those issued by the women’s penitentiary. They entered the restroom at 6:13 p.m. and did not leave until approximately 7:27 p.m.”

At this point, according to the affidavit filed with the court, deputies identified Welch as likely being the man in the videos.

Then another video was reviewed and in that situation, “the video was blurry based on the fact that an individual was looking at the location where the camera was being housed and stuck his finger in the hole and moved the camera from where it had been set.

“On that video, you see (a sergeant with the sheriff’s department) enter the facility and thoroughly check the rest area for damages,” the affidavit continues.

The sergeant ran the plates of all the vehicles at the rest area when he was there and then left.

As soon as he left, according to investigators, the individual wearing the blue coat appears and enters the facility – he is said to be inside the restroom for nearly an hour.

One of the license plates the sergeant ran was registered to Victoria Gilbert, the affidavit says, and she appeared to be the same female individual who was in an earlier video. They also note that this was the same vehicle Welch was driving when he was cited for driving under suspension last December.

Investigators said they determined that the “female accomplice may (also have been) waiting out in her vehicle to watch for people that were coming into the rest area. This would give the male subject ample warning to hide himself in the case of a female entering the bathroom. This would also explain how the subjects went undetected with multiple people coming in and out of the restrooms on the videos.”

Investigators said there were six cases of toilet paper ruined over the course of time and the maintenance person was asked to list a total amount of the time and cleaning supplies to clean up the mess. There were also other damages that were referenced in the court documents but not listed.

There was also the issue of having to close the rest areas between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. “These areas are designed for the public to obtain water from a water fountain, use restroom facilities, walk animals, and to rest when tired. Rest areas are a service that is provided to the public. Due to the nature of the subject’s actions, one of the rest areas had to be closed. The total estimated monetary loss to the state and (the contractor) is approximately $2,500.”

Investigators with the sheriff’s department said in the execution of the search warrant at the residence of Welch and Gilbert, they found two coats which they say were the ones seen worn in the videos as well as headband/headlamps also seen on the video.

The sheriff’s department says Welch and Gilbert are the suspects in this strange case. Charges are pending and have not yet been filed with the county court.