Father and son tree trimmers accused in York County burglaries

Lester Knee Jr.

Police say father and son tree trimmers are accused of burglarizing York County homes, including one where the pair did work, and investigators suspect they might be tied to other thefts.

Northern York County Regional Police said Lester Knee Jr., 52, and his son Joshua Knee, 26, stole items in November from a Manchester Township home where they had previously done tree work.

The Knees also are accused of a burglary in York Township, according to authorities. In that case, police said they had been doing tree work in the area prior to the burglary.

“We’re getting calls from additional victims,” Northern Regional Deputy Police Chief David Lash said, adding that some of them live in areas covered by other police departments.

Lash encouraged people who had work done by the Knees — and whose homes were later burglarized or who had property missing — call their local police.

Joshua Knee, of the 10000 block of Gumtree Road, Chanceford Township, and Lester Knee, of the first block of Randilyn Road, Washington Township, are charged with burglary, conspiracy to commit that offense, trespassing, theft, receiving stolen property and loitering. Northern York County Regional Police filed those charges for the alleged Manchester Township burglary.

York Area Regional Police filed similar charges against the two in the alleged York Township theft.

Joshua Knee

Manchester Township: Northern York County Regional Police were alerted by a resident in Manchester Township to a burglary on Nov. 29 in a home in the 2800 block of Susquehanna Trail.

The resident's home security system detected movement in the home late on Nov. 28, according to court documents.

The man discovered that two watches, valued at about $2,400 together, were missing, and his basement door was found "wide open," officials said. Coins belonging to the man's sister also were missing, documents state.

The man told police the home was being renovated and, while he often stayed there overnight, he was not there on that particular night, court documents state. 

Video surveillance from the home captured two people in camouflage in the house about 11:30 p.m., and both seemed to be familiar with the home, officials said.

They were seen rummaging through things, and they left the home two hours later, court documents state.

Tried selling jewelry: Northern Regional Detective Michael Hine contacted Zimmerman Jewelers in West York and asked the owner if anyone had attempted to sell jewelry, specifically the watch that was stolen from the Manchester Township home, officials said.

The owner told Hine that someone tried to sell that type of watch, which is rare, on Nov. 29, but the owner wasn't able to give the man what he wanted for it, charging documents state.

On the afternoon of Nov. 30, Hine went to the store to view surveillance footage, and it showed two men, later identified as the Knees, trying to sell the watch, police said.

While that happened, the Knees entered the store, according to authorities. Police said Lester Knee was trying to sell metals and old jewelry.

Hine spoke to the younger Knee, who said the watch he had been trying to sell the day before belonged to his grandfather and that he received it after his grandfather died, court documents state. Joshua Knee said his father, a "picker," was trying to sell items for cash, officials said.

"(Joshua) Knee was deceptive when being questioned and stated he 'did not know where the watch currently was,'" Hine wrote in charging documents. Joshua Knee told police that he and his father are tree trimmers, but denied doing work in York County, officials said.

Hine then spoke to Lester Knee, who seemed nervous, according to charging documents. 

Lester Knee was trying to sell what he said was "costume" jewelry and coins, documents state. The Manchester Township victim and his sister were not able to identify any of the jewelry being sold by Lester Knee, so at that point police could not arrest the Knees, officials said. 

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Motel: On Dec. 3, Hine went to the Super 8 in Manchester Township, where the Knees were staying, charging documents state.

Police said the two were staying in a room rented to Joshua Knee's girlfriend.

Hine looked at surveillance footage from the night of the burglary and saw both Knees at the motel just before 4 a.m. that day, authorities said. Police said they were wearing the same clothing as the people seen burglarizing the Manchester Township home.

The victim in that burglary told police he had hired Lester Knee to do tree work at his home in the past, charging documents state. 

On at least one occasion Lester Knee brought his wife to the victim's home, charging documents state.

That man also was able to provide documentation of the rare watch that was stolen, and it matched what Joshua Knee was trying to sell at the West York jeweler, according to officials.

York Township: York Area Regional Police said officers were called to the 600 block of Owen Road the morning of Nov. 20 for a report of a burglary. The homeowners were out of town, but a neighbor reported the burglary, according to officials.

Police said jewelry trays were emptied, and a statue and silverware could not be found in the house.

The homeowners told police that no one had been in the house from Nov. 2 until Nov. 20, documents state.

Police spoke to Lester Knee at the scene, and he told authorities that he had been hired to cut trees in the neighborhood, according to officials.

He said he had not noticed anything unusual in the past few weeks but did see a box truck parked at the victim's home over the past few weeks, police said.

On Nov. 28, York Area Regional Police reviewed a database of pawned items from shops in Springettsbury Township and Spring Garden Township, documents state.

Police said combined, the Knees sold more than 70 items between Nov. 5 and Nov. 28. They made just over $2,000 from all of the items, according to authorities.

Photos of the items were shown to the York Township victims, and they identified the items as ones stolen from their home, charging documents state.

Police spoke to Joshua Knee on Nov. 30, and he said he had been cutting trees with his father but that he hadn't been to Owen Road in more than two weeks, document state.

Joshua Knee told police he received the items to pawn from his father and that he believed the jewelry was stolen but wasn't sure where it had been stolen, police said.

During the interview, he indicated he knew the house that was broken into, even though he said he hadn't been to the neighborhood recently, according to police. 

On Dec. 12, police spoke to Lester Knee, who admitted he had his son break into the home, officials said. Police said Lester Knee got his son to give him the stolen items from the home, charging documents state.

Lester Knee and Joshua Knee remain in York County Prison on $75,000 bail and $35,000 bail respectively.

A message left for Joshua Knee's public defender was not immediately returned. Lester Knee does not have an attorney listed.

Northern Regional Police said in a news release that the Knees operated various businesses in York and Adams counties, including tree trimming, gutter cleaning and general handymen services. 

Anyone with information on the Knees is asked to call police at 717-467-8355 or email tips@nycrpd.org.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.