Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Law enforcement agencies in the Midlands say the arrest of a local grocer in Columbia has led to the discovery of a trove of items that had been stolen from area homes.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, and Forest Acres Police Chief Gene Sealy held a news conference Thursday where they laid out--literally--their discovery.
On several tables they displayed stolen watches, necklaces, books, figurines, and weapons which had been swiped from houses. There was even a Bronze Star military medal, an antique Bible, and a wedding photo from 1882.
"We recovered a lot of stuff," Sheriff Lott said. "A lot of jewelry items, a lot of unique items."
The discoveries were made possible, Lott said, following the arrest of 56-year-old Samuel Green Jr., who owns Sam's Grocery on Pendleton Street.
According to Lott, Green had been working with Brooks Easterling, a suspect police say is a "cat burglar" who was arrested last month on multiple burglary charges. Lott said when they took him into custody, they recovered some stolen items, but knew there had to be more, and perhaps there was a "fence" in the community who might have received some of the treasures.
While looking at surveillance tape recovered from Easterling's home, officers say they found a recording of Green over at Easterling's home examining some of the stolen items just hours after a burglary.
"We were able to watch Green in the video look at the stolen items, examine them, then put a lot of them in a bag and leave," Lott said.
Investigators then got a warrant to search Green's home and business, where they found stolen items. Green was then arrested and charged.
Lott said they're now trying to match the stolen items with victims in the community. Hours before his address to reporters, he said two women had come forward to claim some of their property.
"One of the ladies came in and was still crying because it was a sentimental item that she thought she would never see again," he said.
Right now, the sheriff says he doesn't know how many people may have been victimized by Easterling, or how long Green may have been receiving items from him.