By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A search was still underway Wednesday for a man who allegedly emptied a federal courthouse when he cut off his home-confinement bracelet and sent it there.
Michael Dwayne Cunningham, 51, no address given, was under home confinement in Mercer County for a fraud charge, according to Bill Jessee, regional executive director of Southern Regional Corrections. Cunningham now faces a charge of absconding from home confinement. Cun-ningham was book-ed into the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver on Sept. 13 on charges of conspiracy and obtaining money by false pretenses, Jessee said. He was placed on home confinement as a condition of his bond.
At approximately 11 a.m. Tuesday, the U.S. Post Office at the Elizabeth Kee Federal Building along Federal Street in Bluefield received a package. A beeping noise was noticed, and the package was put through an X-ray machine used to screen visitors and mail. The image revealed an electronic device with multiple wires coming out of it.
The building was evacuated and the Bluefield Police Department diverted traffic around the federal courthouse. A bomb technician squad from the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment was able to safely open the package later and determine that it contained a home-confinement monitoring bracelet.
Officers at the Mercer County Day Report Center had already been alerted that Cunningham had removed his monitoring device, Jessee stated.
“Home confinement officers were notified immediately that the strap was tampered with and went through our protocol which is to call the offender,” he said. “If there is no answer, we then send a page to the offender’s equipment, which causes it to vibrate and beep until it is answered.”
In this case, Cunningham did not answer the telephone call nor acknowledged the page, Jessee said.
“Officers then quickly pulled up the last know GPS coordinates and went to the location, which turned out to be at the federal building,” he said Wednesday.
Cunnnigham’s information has been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) data base. Cunningham was possibly driving a blue Mazda pickup truck with the license number WV 032160. He is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs approximately 260 pounds.
Cunningham is not currently facing any federal charges.