Tuesday, July 5, 2022

JCC Man Found Guilty of Stealing $8,000 in Mulch

The Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse
The Williamsburg-James City County Courthouse

A James City County man was found guilty of eight counts of grand larceny with intent to distribute Wednesday.

Lawrence R. Waltrip III was accused of stealing up to 360 yards of mulch – worth at least $8,000 – from Peninsula Hardwood Mulch in eight incidents between May and July of 2013.

Waltrip, who runs his own mulch company called Signature Mulch out of his home in St. George’s Hundred, pleaded not guilty to all eight counts of grand larceny.

He also pleaded not guilty to an additional eight counts of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, all of which Judge Michael McGinty dismissed during the trial due to insufficient evidence.

The dispute arose when an employee of Peninsula Hardwood Mulch told the owner Waltrip paid him to look the other way when Waltrip would take truckloads of mulch from the lot outside of business hours.

Both the owner of Peninsula Hardwood Mulch and the employee, who still works for the company and admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from the business to support a past cocaine habit, testified for the prosecution.

During the owner’s testimony, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joshua DeFord played security tapes that show a truck similar to Waltrip’s on the lot taking mulch early in the morning and late at night. Though the footage was blurry, the owner claimed he had enough familiarity with Waltrip’s vehicles to say with confidence that they were his.

The defense called two witnesses of its own, both of whom are former Peninsula Hardwood Mulch employees who testified to Waltrip’s history as a good client of the business. They also testified that larger clients often took goods up front and paid later.

“In the words of Shakespeare, ‘Something is foul in Denmark’,” defense lawyer Brandon Waltrip said of the relationship between the two witnesses for the prosecution in his closing arguments.

Brandon Waltrip argued the Peninsula Hardwood Mulch owner wanted to target his client, who he said runs a “more successful” mulch business.

McGinty sided with the prosecution, finding Lawrence Waltrip guilty on all eight counts of grand larceny based on what he called “very credible” testimony from the business owner about the security tapes.

Waltrip is scheduled to return to court Nov. 23 for sentencing, at which time the Commonwealth plans to present more evidence specifying the total value of mulch stolen.

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