An alert Thomson woman is being credited with helping police put a halt to a number of residential and business break-ins last week. The woman's help has led to the arrests of three local teenagers - two of whom are brothers.
For the past two and a half weeks, there have been more than a dozen residential and business burglaries throughout downtown, as well as neighborhoods off the Wrens Highway, according to Investigator Lt. Scott Whittle of the Thomson Police Department.
"We have really been hit hard lately by this rash of break-ins," Lt. Whittle said. "We believe we have the ones responsible in custody."
The suspected teenagers - all boys - are being held at the Regional Youth Development Center in Augusta.
Charges against them range from a single count to multiple counts of burglary and in at least one incident, a charge of theft of a motor vehicle, Lt. Whittle said. A juvenile hearing is expected to be held soon before McDuffie County Juvenile Judge Brett Hammond. At that time, exact charges will be cited against each of the suspects - two of them being brothers, Lt. Whittle said.
"We believe they were after money in the break-ins," the investigator pointed out. "In a few of the residential break-ins, they found a little money, but only got about $10 from one of the four businesses that they confessed to having broken into."
Lt. Whittle could not say exactly how many residential and business break-ins the trio might actually be charged with since their investigation still is ongoing. He also could not say if this case might be connected to a rash of vehicle break-ins of late.
"I expect that this case will help us solve at least 12-15 burglaries in the city," Lt. Whittle said. Two or three more residential break-ins may, in turn, be solved within McDuffie County, along Salem Road, he added.
The investigation thus far involves at least four Thomson businesses having been broken into recently. Lt. Whittle named them as Michael's Restaurant, Fowler and Wills Law Firm, Cornerstone Bakery and Abigail's - the latter two both on Main Street.
It was on Salem Road, just off Forrest Clary Drive, where two of the suspects were taken into custody - only minutes after they allegedly broke into a residence in the county. Just before breaking into that house and stealing several items, of which later were recovered in a nearby wooded area, Deputy Marc Coy of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department had spotted what Lt. Whittle described as two "suspicious" teenage boys near a residence off Salem Road.
Earlier, a car had been reported stolen from just one street over. That same car was seen parked nearby, leading authorities to converge on the scene and later take two of three suspects into custody, Lt. Whittle said. The third suspect was arrested later that night.
The entire case began to unravel as a result of the city break-in. Two teenage boys reportedly broke into a mobile home and stole a set of car keys before being spotted stealing a 1992 Cadillac Seville, Lt. Whittle said.
Thomson police officers Josh Castin and Adam Dye, along with Deputy Coy, began questioning the suspects, as another call of a break-in was being answered by Deputy Marc Thompson nearby on Salem Road.
"We believe that was the latest burglary that was committed, because we found the car about 50 yards away," Lt. Whittle said. "We also discovered a rifle, some fireworks and micro-cassette recorder and change.
The watchful eyes of a neighbor saw the crime of the stolen car unfold and this prompted her to call 911 for police.
"My hat is off to this woman who reported seeing two boys steal the car, because that's what helped us crack this whole case," Lt. Whittle said. "Chances are had she not done what she did, we still wouldn't be any closer to solving these types of cases."