NEW KENT, Va. (WTVR) –Deputies in New Kent County believe four suspects caught Wednesday and Thursday had been breaking into homes in at least six different jurisdictions for the past six months.
With more than 100 warrants on file, the theft ring is being described as one of the largest in New Kent history.
In fact, the New Kent County Sheriff’s Office said the scope of their investigation is expanding to include break-ins in King William, King and Queen, James City, Gloucester and West Point.
It came to an end Wednesday thanks to an alert citizen.
“You just never think it’s going to happen,” said Debra Barta, whose home was burglarized. “[Suddenly] there were 15 to 18 unmarked police cars in my driveway.”
Barta spoke Thursday, surrounded by peaceful country scenery at Mountain Laurel Grove in New Kent, which earlier had been transformed into a command site for law enforcement looking for thieves that had been breaking into homes by kicking on doors.
“[From] some of the homes, we’ve actually removed shoe prints that match at other places,” said Chief Deputy Joe McLaughlin.
Deputies said on Wednesday, three men rolled up to Mark Arsenault’s house and knocked on his door. Arsenault said his dogs started barking like crazy, so he answered the door. He says one of the three told him they were looking for a friend.
“I asked for an address, [but] he didn’t know,” said Arsenault. “He said he was trying to reach his buddy by cell phone but had no reception. Our reception is fine so the bunny ears went up.”
As the three drove off, Arsenault remembered a conversation he had had with a deputy two months prior when several homes had been broken into. “[They] came out at the end of January and told us what to look for,” said Arsenault. “And they said get as good descriptors as you can without getting in harm’s way. That’s what I did.”
According to deputies, Arsenault’s tip helped investigators crack an enormous case. Arrested Wednesday after deputies spotted their vehicle, were Luke Forbes, 21, of Center Cross, Antoine Burrell, 29 of West Point and Lopear Burrell, 31, of West Point—all from Va.
Deputies said between 35 and 45 homes had been hit in New Kent and surrounding areas, including the homes of three police officers, two of whom had their service revolvers stolen.
Deputies said one of the ring’s last stops was Barta’s house.
“They took my husband’s coin box and some costume jewelry,” Barta said.
But that box was symbolically replaced Thursday by one brought by neighbor Mark Arsenault, who urged her to not let the thieves take their peace of mind. “I got this box and neighbors put some change in it for you,” said Arsenault, while standing on Barta’s doorstep.
“Mark you’re so sweet,” replied Barta.
A fourth suspect, Joseph Pitts, 31, of West Point was arrested in West Point Thursday afternoon.
In all, 115 warrants are on file for the foursome, with as many as 50 more to be served. Deputies say they are not finished, adding, if anyone else helped them, they, too, will be caught.