Police charged a Mills man with burglary, vandalism and other crimes after he broke into a downtown thrift store last week, according to court records.
Not surprisingly, Thomas William Branstetter also was high on methamphetamine when officers caught him carrying a purse, and wearing a pink dress and black coat but no shoes while running from the Rescued Treasures Thrift Store the day after Christmas.
Branstetter, 51, heard the charges — two felony counts of burglary and property destruction, and two misdemeanor counts of simple assault and drug possession — during his initial appearance in Natrona County Circuit Court on Monday.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Patchen set Branstetter’s bond at $15,000 cash or surety. Branstetter will have a preliminary hearing within a few weeks to determine whether his case will be bound over to district court for trial.
The case began late Dec. 25 when Branstetter obtained and used methamphetamine, walked around the city, and looked for shelter when the weather turned cold. He found his way to a box truck belonging to a man who has property near the store at 330 N. Durbin St., according to interviews of him and other witnesses reported in a police affidavit filed in circuit court.
Branstetter spied on the man until he left the area. Police later searched the truck and found a pair of women’s underwear and other items. Branstetter told police he didn’t know anything about them.
He used a metal rod to break a window and enter the thrift store. He brought inside a duffel bag with a sleeping bag, personal toiletries and a tablet computer.
Branstetter was trying on women’s clothing and applying makeup when he realized he left his cell phone in the box truck, according to the affidavit. “Branstetter advised he was barefoot when he retrieved cell phone and returned to the building but could not remember if he was wearing his own clothing or female clothing.”
At 7:30 a.m. Friday, an employee arrived at the store, saw items near the building’s entrance that seemed out of place, and noticed a light on in the bathroom and movement inside the bathroom.
Branstetter then began placing his belongings in a purse he found on a counter.
The employee yelled she was going to call police, but Branstetter confronted her. He knocked the phone from her hand, pushed her against a wall, and held a fire extinguisher above her head as if he were about to hit her. He then fled the building.
Meanwhile, the nearby property owner came by, saw the apparent burglary and called police. Branstetter was running from the store, saw the man and deliberately ran into him.
Police arrived, gave chase, and took Branstetter into custody.
The purse he took contained two sex toys, a phone charger, two wallets, tampons and other items. Branstetter said the toys must have been in the purse before he put his own belongings in it.
He also denied damaging any of the items in the store including furniture, windows and mirrors, clothing, a cash drawer, mannequins and dolls.
The employee was greatly frightened by the incident, and she closed the store for the day because of the damage.
The affidavit states Branstetter is a suspect in several recent burglaries and thefts, including an incident where he had stolen women’s clothing, dresses and two mannequins. He also has been convicted of kidnapping, aggravated assault, and escape from a detention facility.
Rescued Treasures Thrift Store needs your help to recover from the damage and the loss of inventory, according to a news release from its owner the Central Wyoming Rescue Mission.
While sad about the damage, Mission director Brad Hopkins said the store is now open for business, according to the news release. “He is asking for community support to replace the damaged goods and is requesting especially gently used furniture and linens.”
Donations can be delivered to the store from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. To donate large items, call 577-7793 for a pickup.
The store and mission also are receiving cash donations, which may be made online at http://www.CWRM.org, or mailed to P.O. Box 2030, Casper, WY 82602.
For more information, call Sarah Kennah at 268-4474.