Suspects caught following Wolfchase jewelry heist

By Jody Callahan of The Commercial Appeal

For the second time in less than three years, a robber smashed into a case full of Rolex watches Sunday at Reeds Jewelers in the Wolfchase Galleria.

And as with the first time, the bumbling suspects were caught.

This latest incident happened a little after 1 p.m. Sunday, when a man — armed with a small sledgehammer — apparently smashed the case containing the Rolexes. Although police haven’t confirmed that detail, a smashed case was visible inside the store Sunday afternoon, a sledgehammer nearby on the floor.

The man grabbed several watches, dropped the hammer and ran. Reeds is at least 150 feet from the closest exit; police weren’t saying yet which way the robber ran.

But he managed to get out of the mall and into a car with two other suspects, both women.

They fled from the mall, but police had a description of the getaway vehicle — a red-and-white Dodge Challenger. Officers saturated the area as the suspects fled east on Interstate 40, then south on Tennessee 385, police said. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol joined the search, and just north of Macon and 385, police stopped the car and took all three suspects into custody.

No shots were fired, and no one was injured in the incident.

This follows another heist at that same jewelry store on Jan. 18, 2014. That robbery appeared more professional, at least at the outset. Six men with sledgehammers burst into the store and stole more than $500,000 worth of watches.

The suspects were later caught in Texas, largely because police traced a phone one of them dropped during the holdup.

Shortly after Sunday’s heist, mall security attempted to run off reporters and patrons who were lingering around the store, which had its security gates pulled down. Still, passersby could see the case containing the watches had spider-webbed glass, and a sledgehammer was lying on the floor next to the case.

Employees at several nearby stores acknowledged seeing or hearing the ruckus, but would not comment on the record. A man identifying himself as the district manager for Reeds also would not comment.


FCSO: Man uses hatchet to break into Palm Coast jewelry store 3 times

Store robbed for 2nd time in 11 months

PALM COAST — Employees at Greg Lynn Jewelers off Old Kings Road had a rude welcome when they arrived to work Tuesday morning, finding shattered glass littering the front entrance of the Palm Coast jewelry shop, vestiges of an apparent “smash-and-grab” burglary.

Flagler County sheriff’s deputies later arrested Craig Chavez, 51, of Reinhardt Lane in connection with the Tuesday morning break-in. The Palm Coast man faces charges of burglary, criminal mischief, theft of utilities, and possession of burglary tools in connection with the incident. He remained jailed Tuesday night on $10,000 bail, booking records show.

According to Flagler County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jim Troiano, Chavez used a hatchet to break out windows and enter the store twice early Tuesday morning. The first time came about 6 a.m. when he entered the shop with a plastic bag over his face and took a bag with nothing valuable in it. He was able to get away without triggering an alarm, according to investigation reports.

But Troiano said Chavez returned about an hour later and used a hatchet to break out another window, this time using a T-shirt to conceal his face. He took between 13 and 15 bracelets with a combined value of $500 and left, but not before exposing the license tag of his getaway vehicle. Troiano said also Chavez returned a third time with nothing covering his face.

Investigators traced the vehicle tag to the registered owner, who turned out to be Chavez’s girlfriend. Troiano said she told them that only she and Chavez used the vehicle, and deputies found and questioned Chavez. After he was arrested, they also recovered several of the stolen items. Some were stashed near the jewelry shop and other bracelets were found in Chavez’s dresser. Officials said they have returned several of the stolen items to the shop’s owners and the others are being processed as evidence.

The break-in resulted in between $3,000 and $4,000 in damage to the store, Troiano said.

It was the second such burglary in less than a year at Greg Lynn Jewelers, 101 Flagler Plaza Drive. Two men broke out the glass during an early morning robbery last July moments after they tried and failed to break into Sharp’s Liquor store, which sits two doors down from the jewelry store.

No arrests have been made in any of those cases and Troiano said investigators do not believe Chavez was involved with those robberies.