Most of the time solving a string of burglaries is like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together and realizing some pieces are missing.
This string of burglaries started in early July and were scattered from Plantersville to Nettleton. Most began after the tent city on Auburn Road was taken down and the homeless tenants moved, like fire ants move next door after being run off by poison at their previous location.
On Tuesday, two more were brought in — Trey Carpenter, 33 and Christopher Rhea, both of Tupelo. The day before Hayden Hall, 21, was taken into custody.
With these, there have been at least 11 persons arrested and charged.
“When the tent city got erupted and these people fled, they hooked up with some other people. Every time we solved one (burglary) we’d find someone else connected. They were all intertwined,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. “Somebody’s taking them in, and they are teaching the good-hearted how to steal.”
Most of the homes that were burglarized were homes that were under construction or the occupants were away for an extended period of time. Items taken included electronics, jewelry, checks, credit cards, tools, golf carts, an ATV and motorcycles. The items were taken to support a methamphetamine habit. Solving the crime, began with one fragment, like that jigsaw puzzle after you discover a piece on the floor. In this case, it began with a check.
“We began getting these people by a check, that was taken from someone’s checkbook. So a woman cashed that check and paid some of her bills with it, signing her own name to it,” said Lee County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Will Morgan. “So we got a warrant for her. We go to her house, searched the place, found a stolen motorcycle, took her into custody, along with a male who was there and interviewed them.”
If a criminal says he trusts you, he is asserting confidence that you won’t “snitch” or inform on him. But when push comes to shove, that usually changes.
In this case “They admit to some, and tell who was with them. They’ve already sold a large amount of this property —some over Facebook® and some was carried to drug dealers, to trade for drugs,” Morgan said. “We’re in the process now of trying to find where this property has been sold or traded.”
Arrested earlier were Paula Rae Lockhart, 42, Christopher W. Griffin, 32, and Alexis Shamlin, 22; all of Plantersville.
Carpenter was charged with two counts of possession of stolen firearm and receiving stolen property.
Rhea was charged with receiving stolen property.
Hall was charged with felony breaking and entering of a residence.
Lockhart was charged with burglary of a dwelling. She was on probation with MDOC at the time of these burglaries
Griffin was charged with burglary of a dwelling.
Shamlin was charged with fraudulent obtaining of goods. She was also on probation from MDOC when these burglaries occurred.
This continues to be an ongoing investigation and more arrests are expected.
“It’s a strange dynamic because they were living in this tent city, multiple people living together and each day, they’d pick a couple who were to commit the crimes that day,” Morgan said. “Now they were all staying at this one house. “We went to the house about that check. There were 12 people inside — some sleeping on the floor, some on couches, some in recliners — it’s 10:30 a.m. on a week day and they’re all passed out, asleep.”
When the sheriff was asked about jail overcrowding and if he’d have enough space to hold all these new arrivals, he said “If they’re thiefs, I’ll hold them. If they can sleep on the floor there, they can sleep on the floor here.”
Publisher’s note: We were able to find mugshots of all these individuals because they had all been arrested in the past.