Man convicted in Lawrence grease theft cases fails to appear for sentencing

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Byron Parker Aston, pictured July 23, 2019

A Springfield, Mo., man who recently pleaded guilty to charges of stealing grease from behind two Lawrence restaurants failed to appear for his sentencing hearing on Friday.

He was likely facing probation; instead, an arrest warrant will be issued for Byron Aston, 29, Judge Mark Simpson ruled.

Aston was first charged Feb. 27 with felony theft for allegedly stealing more than a ton of used cooking grease from bins behind three downtown Lawrence restaurants. Prosecutors said Aston came back to Lawrence for a court hearing in July and afterward stole grease and a grease bin from another downtown restaurant. Police said they also found a modified shotgun and a stolen rifle in his truck at that time.

photo by: Sara Shepherd/Journal-World File Photo

This file photo from March 28, 2019 shows grease bins, where restaurants dispose of used cooking oil, in downtown Lawrence.

As the Journal-World has reported, grease theft is a problem that has been likened to theft of scrap metal. Companies can make money off of converting used grease into biodiesel products through processing plants.

On Dec. 18, Aston pleaded guilty to theft in his first case and prosecutors dismissed a second charge, driving while suspended. In his second case, he pleaded guilty to criminal use of weapons, and prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor theft charge and a second charge of driving while suspended.

Since-retired Judge Peggy Kittel granted Aston a $10,000 own-recognizance bond in both cases so that he could be released from the jail pending sentencing. He was expected to face probation. Kittel told Aston at the time that he had a lot riding on his actions.

On Friday, Aston’s appointed defense attorney, Dakota Loomis, appeared in court alone. He told the judge that he’d been trying to reach Aston but was not successful, though Aston had been in communication in the days and weeks prior.

Prosecutor Cathy Eaton said this was not the first time Aston had failed to appear — he had missed an earlier court hearing and was subsequently arrested on a warrant on Nov. 5. She requested that Simpson revoke Aston’s bond and issue a warrant.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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Related coverage

Dec. 19, 2019: Missouri man pleads guilty in Lawrence grease theft case

Nov. 19, 2019: Missouri man accused of stealing grease in 2 Lawrence cases back in court

Aug. 6, 2019: Man attended court for Lawrence grease theft case, then stole more grease, affidavit alleges

July 22, 2019: Man in grease theft case faces new charges, will go to trial

March 31, 2019: Under cloak of night, thieves following national trend target something gross in downtown Lawrence alleys: used grease


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