A home invasion in Portal on Sunday left a victim physically unharmed, a stolen vehicle burned and a suspect at large.
Portal Police Chief Jason Sapp said the 87-year-old woman was tied to a chair using zip ties after a man forced his way into her home, waved a gun and threatened her.
Then, the suspect stole her purse, two TVs, and her 2006 GMC Envoy before fleeing, leaving her restrained, he said.
The SUV was found later in a wooded area, burned. Neighbors heard the victim calling for help when they went to check on her later Sunday evening.
Sapp called for assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Sunday.
“We usually involve them when we have such a serious crime,” said Sapp.
Monday, GBI agents released a surveillance photo of a man using what they thought was the victim’s credit card at an ATM in Statesboro, he said.
However, after that man’s photo was released to the public, it was determined that he was not involved in the home invasion.
The suspect in the crime remains at large, Sapp said. He is a white male, with brown hair, clean shaven, of average build and stands around 5’11” tall, he said.
The man in the surveillance photo released by GBI agents was identified as Lon Hadden. Statesboro GBI Special Agent Cathy Sapp said the delivery of Hadden’s photo to news media “was a mistake,” but did not clarify the mistake, citing the ongoing investigation as reasons further details could not be revealed.
Monica Jenkins, Hadden’s wife, said Monday afternoon that having her husband’s photo “plastered all over the news media” was disturbing.
“We just feel bad for the person it happened to, and I hope they find out who did it,” she said. “It was hurtful that (investigators) didn’t investigate further before they splashed his picture all over the news.”
Hadden’s photo also was widely distributed via social media including Facebook by people “sharing” news media posts in efforts to help law enforcement identify him.
But, since Hadden was cleared of any wrongdoing by GBI, the efforts were meaningless, Jenkins said.
“They could have even called the bank to find out it was a legitimate account, and it was his card he used,” she said.
GBI agents and Sapp are still seeking the identity of the man who robbed the elderly victim at gunpoint. The investigation is “actively ongoing,” Sapp said.
Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call Portal Police at (912) 865-5330 or the Statesboro GBI office at (912) 871-1121.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.