Gates, Hertford heists may be linked

Published 10:53 am Thursday, January 29, 2009

Apparently, Gates and Hertford counties have more in common other than being on opposite shores of the Chowan River.

Three recent armed robberies – two in Gates and one in Hertford – may be connected. Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan and his law enforcement counterpart across the river, Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb, have their officers jointly working the robberies.

In Hertford County, Sheriff Vaughan said the investigation is ongoing in an effort to identify two black males who robbed Ricky’s Corner Shop in the St. John community on January 12.

Vaughan reported that both suspects were armed with shotguns when they entered the store at 8:59 p.m., one minute before closing time.

“The suspects pointed the shotguns at the store clerk and demanded money,” Vaughan said. “Both suspects concealed their faces by wearing black or dark colored ski masks.”

The clerk was not injured during the heist and there were no customers in the store. The suspects left with an undisclosed amount of money.

One suspect was described as being approximately 6-foot tall wearing gray coveralls and black knit cotton gloves. Sheriff Vaughan said the store clerk noted that this particular suspect had high-arched eyebrows.

The second suspect was approximately 5’-8” wearing a black hat, a black pull-over sweater or knit shirt and dark colored pants.

Both suspects were described as thin.

Those with information can contact Detective Lt. Will Liverman at 358-7800.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Webb has two armed robberies under investigation in his county. He believes they, along with the Hertford County heist, are related.

“The ‘mo’ (mode of operation, a term used by law enforcement officers to describe a criminal’s characteristic patterns and style of committing crimes) is similar between the two robberies,” Webb said. “We’re investigating the two cases from that angle and it appears, from talking with Sheriff Vaughan, that the same ‘mo’ was used in a robbery in Hertford County.”

The most recent Gates County heist came on Jan. 22 where two elderly business owners were robbed at gunpoint as they were in the process of closing their business – Stallings Brothers (an auto body and paint shop located at the intersection of Carters Road and Horace Carter Road) – for the night. Neither man was injured.

Sheriff Webb said the two brothers heard a knock at their garage door at around 8:30 p.m.

“Upon checking to see who was at the door, they were informed it was someone coming to check on a vehicle (at the garage),” Webb said.

The Sheriff said the door was opened and two masked males entered, one bearing what was referred to as a “long gun.”

The assailants ordered the two brothers to lie on the floor at which time they were asked where the money was kept.

“The two victims responded that the money they had was on their person,” Webb said. “At that time the two suspects stole the wallets of the two victims.”

An undisclosed amount of money was taken.

Sheriff Webb said the two victims did not recall hearing or seeing a vehicle leave their property following the robbery. The only description given of the two assailants was they were black males, both in the 5’5” to 5’8” range with slim builds wearing dark clothing and dark ski masks.

“We believe the suspects had a vehicle parked nearby on the Horace Carter Road,” Webb said.

Webb also believes the robbery is connected to a Jan. 13 heist at a Sunbury convenience store. In that robbery, a lone black male entered the Holiday Foods store at 9:58 p.m. (two minutes before closing time) bearing what was later described by the two cashiers as a “long gun.”

The Sunbury suspect was reportedly wearing a dark blue ski mask and dark clothing. No other physical description was given.

“He demanded money from the two cashiers and they handed over the cash,” Webb said.

It is not known if the suspect left the store’s parking lot on foot or had a vehicle parked nearby.

“We’re calling all of our small business owners in Gates County and giving them a heads-up on this recent string of armed robberies,” Webb said. “We do not want them to take the law into their own hands. They need to quietly follow the demands of the robber while making every attempt to make a mental snapshot of the suspect.”

Those with any information on these two armed robberies are asked to contact the Gates County Sheriff’s Office at 357-0210. The caller’s identity is kept confidential.