November 15. 2013 10:06PM

Teen arrested after spate of vehicle arsons in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader

Robert Conroy 

MANCHESTER — A Memorial High School freshman is accused of causing nearly $200,000 in damage to 14 cars over the past two months in a drug-fueled crime spree, police said.

Robert Conroy, 17, of 50 Cranwell Dr., was arraigned Friday in Circuit Court-Manchester District Division on 10 counts of felony theft of motor vehicles and five counts of arson. Bail was set at $15,000 cash/surety, with conditions that include no contact with the vehicle owners, including the commercial owners.

Howard Fohlin, 25, of the same address, also was arrested, charged with resisting arrest/detention when he sought to flee.

Police and fire investigators say the GPS system in a stolen Water Works truck, one of two trucks found torched Sept. 4 in the west side area known as Black Acres, provided key information that ultimately led to the arrest of Conroy. The GPS track was matched with video surveillance at several locations.

Court documents show the vehicle thefts and arsons for which Conroy is charged began Aug. 20 and continued on a sporadic basis during August and September, with the last Sept. 22, Sgt. Brian N. O'Keefe said the investigation is continuing and Fohlin could be facing additional charges. Investigators also believe several other people were involved.

The police Special Enforcement Division, arson investigators with the Manchester Fire Department and the National Insurance Crime Bureau participated in the investigation.

After meeting with city Deputy Fire Marshal Mitchell Cady, police said investigators connected 13 other cases to the stolen and torched Water Works vehicle and, ultimately, to Conroy.

The commercial vehicles taken were the Water Works truck and trucks from Enterprise Rental and Sanel Auto Parts. The remaining vehicles were privately owned.

Investigators were able to determine that while a number of the thefts occurred in the general area where Conroy lives, the vehicles were disposed of in a variety of locations including Black Acres, Pine Island Park, Stevens Pond and Bypass 28/Rattlesnake Road, as well as on city streets.

Some of the thefts were described to police as "car hopping," or breaking into vehicles, stealing items and, if the keys are there, taking the car itself.

Information gathered indicated Conroy and others involved would drive around the city in the stolen vehicles, drinking alcohol, smoking marijuana and binging on pills.

The evidence gathered and "reliable information" resulted in Conroy's arrest, according to investigators.

O'Keefe said the investigation is still active and additional arrests are expected. Because Conroy could enter no plea to a felony in Circuit Court, a probable cause hearing date was set for Nov. 26. There will also be a status hearing that day on a loitering/prowling charge from Sept. 15 on Agnes Street, for which he failed to appear in court last month.