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Authorities accuse Luray man in 7-Eleven robbery

By Joe Beck

A Luray man faces eight felony counts, including armed robbery and assault and battery against a law enforcement officer, stemming from two sets of crimes committed in Warren County in August 2011 and November 2012.

Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp ordered Derek Michael Berry, 34, held without bail after a grand jury indicted him Monday.

The list of offenses authorities attribute to Berry include an armed robbery of a 7-Eleven store at 142 W. 14th St. in Front Royal on Aug. 19, 2011. Police say he was linked to the robbery by DNA analysis after a prolonged investigation.

By the time he was identified as a suspect in the robbery, investigators had lost track of his whereabouts until Sgt. Josh Seal of the Warren County Sheriff's Office subdued him in a fight after a traffic stop and highway chase on Nov. 7, 2012.

A criminal complaint written by Seal states that he came up behind an SUV on U.S. 340 south of Front Royal as it swerved about the road. Seal said he put on his emergency lights, but the SUV continued south for about two miles. He followed the vehicle onto Indian Hollow Road until the vehicle stopped and the driver fled on foot, according to the complaint.

Seal said he caught up to Berry as the suspect tried to get over a fence. The two toppled to the ground and a struggle ensued with Berry punching Seal three times in the chest, according to the complaint.

"I punched Berry back," Seal wrote. "He continued to grab for me."

Berry kept struggling despite Seal's use of pepper spray against him and repeated orders to stop resisting, the complaint states.

Seal said the struggle ended with help from an off duty police officer. Seal said he also found seven bags of what appeared to be marijuana that he believed Berry was intending to sell or distribute.

Berry's arrest came months after a state laboratory matched DNA obtained from him with clothing recovered near the scene of the 7-Eleven robbery, according to a separate criminal complaint filed by Front Royal Detective Jason Lethcoe.

Lethcoe said he collected Berry's DNA while the suspect was being held in the Page County jail on unrelated charges. Lethcoe has said that Berry was released from the jail by the time the laboratory reported that his DNA matched the suspect clothing.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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