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Victims claim items stolen in burglaries
Witnesses, tips helped officers capture suspects, recover goods
Ronnie and April McCollum gets some help from Bulloch County Sheriff's Department Investigator Jared Akins, left, in recovering items stolen from their home after a multiple arrests for area burglary and robbery cases in the past week.

    More than a dozen burglary victims filed into the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office courtroom Thursday afternoon, where a vast array of plasma TVs, video game consoles, lap top computers, guns, jewelry, coins and power tools were spread out as if someone were having an estate sale.
    The items had been stolen over the past three weeks by a ring of burglary suspects who targeted homes in the Banks Dairy Road, Friendship Church road, Ga. 67, Langston Chapel Road and Sinkhole Road areas, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.
    But when one suspect pawned some jewelry that had been stolen from a victim, investigators jumped on the trail. Add some anonymous tips from area citizens and witnesses, and soon that suspect was in custody. Further investigation led to more arrests, and more stolen merchandise recovered.
    In the end, 90 warrants were issued, and 11 victims were able to recover most of the items stolen. The multiple truckloads of electronics, guns, jewelry and more included a couple firearms belonging to some young brothers, and a pink BB gun belonging to a tiny blonde girl, all of whom were ecstatic Thursday when they recognized their possessions in the pile of loot on display.
    “Hopefully, this is the majority (of all stolen goods),” Anderson said. “But we’re still investigating.”
    Deputies and investigators “noticed a spike in crimes” and when they received information about a suspect they knew from previous crimes, things began coming together.
    And when investigators arrived at a burglary suspect’s home to retrieve stolen merchandise, it was fortuitous that a car wanted in connection to a recent armed robbery pulled in right in front of them, Anderson said.
    Deputies arrested three more suspects – a man and woman he said was involved in both the armed robbery and the burglaries, and a third man involved only in the armed robbery on Ga. 46 near Simmons Mill Pond. Later, two more men were charged in connection with the burglaries.
    Victims waited in line or milled about, pointing out items that had been taken from their homes. The suspects waited until they were not home – striking either in the early morning or during lunchtime hours – and kicked in back doors before taking items, Anderson said. “They were really quick – in and out pretty quickly.”
    Most of the stolen items were later recovered in suspect Christopher Shawn Burnette’s home. Burnette, 23, Burkhalter Mobile Home Park, was charged with 11 counts of burglary, 13 counts of felony theft by taking (firearm), theft by receiving stolen property, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, probation violation,  theft by taking and theft by deception.
    “This is our largest recovery in years,” Anderson said.
    April and Ronnie McCollum were pleased to see their TV and Georgia Bulldog bath mats again. “We’re very happy that this was returned,” April McCollum said. But when she first discovered the burglary, “We felt mainly violated. This took away my kids’ sense of security. We have four young children at home who are scared to go back inside – a place they should feel safe.”
    Many victims did not want to be identified. Some feared repercussions should the suspects be freed in the future. But Craig Deal, whose home was invaded, said  “I hope they put them in jail and they stay in jail. I don’t like people going in my house.”
    Jared Winfield Burnsed, 24, Beautiful Zion Church Road, Pembroke; Mathew Douglas Duke, 23, John Wells Road, Hinesville; and Angela Gail Huggins, 26, King Drive, Carrollton, were charged in connection to the armed robbery. Huggins and Duke were also linked to the burglaries and were charged in the cases as well. The hand gun Duke reportedly used in the robbery was recovered hours later, in Burnette’s possession when he was apprehended.
    Anthony Scott Winter, 24, Dry Branch Village, Register, was charged in connection to the burglaries, as was Carl Roscoe Winter, 23, Cedarwood Acres Mobile Home Park, Register.
    Anderson expressed thanks to Bulloch County patrol deputies, investigators Bill Black, Jared Akins, Jason Long and Walter Deal, as well as Bulloch County Drug Suppression Team agents for their assistance in the cases. He also commended the relationship local pawn shops have with law enforcement.
    He offered advice to citizens: “Record serial numbers for all items of value, photograph high value items such as jewelry, lock homes and car doors and report any suspicious activity to the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office at 764-8888 or by dialing 911.”

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