A local citizen's tip has helped law enforcement officers untangle at least two break-ins — one in Sampson, the other in Cumberland — landing one in jail and authorities on the hunt for two others.
Ashley Vernon, 23, of 322 Trappers Run Lane, Clinton was taken into custody Tuesday and charged with felony breaking and entering and conspiracy to commit breaking and entering. Though not yet in custody, warrants have also been drawn on two Sampson men — Timothy Kenon Jr., 24, a last known address of Bubba Gump Lane, Salemburg and Jamie Jordan, 26, with a last known address of Piney Grove Street, Garland — for felony breaking and entering and conspiracy to breaking and entering.
Sampson Sheriff's Lt. Marcus Smith urged anyone with information about either man's whereabouts to contact the Sheriff's Office at 910-592-4141.
The investigation that led to Vernon's arrest and the issuing of the warrants began Tuesday when a Sampson resident contacted 911 after spotting an unknown man walking through the yard of a neighbor's residence on Faircloth Bridge Road.
Smith said once the man noticed the citizen watching, he took off running into the wooded area near the residence.
The citizen, waiting for deputies to arrive, noticed a white van driven by a female driving extremely slow down Faircoth Bridge Road and provided that information to officers when they got to the scene.
After deputies confirmed that there had been a break-in, they immediately began a search for the man who had run into the woods. Smith said as officers were setting up a perimeter, they spotted a white van enter Sampson County from Cumberland. Once the female, later identified as Vernon, saw the law enforcement vehicles, she turned around and headed back toward Cumberland, but was pursued and stopped by officers.
When deputies got the van, they immediately noticed several televisions and a shotgun in plain sight. Vernon was detained so further investigation could be conducted. The shotgun, authorities said, was found propped up beside a baby strapped in a car seat. The child was turned over to a grandparent.
Smith said that the probe revealed that the items inside the van had been reported stolen during a breaking and entering that occurred in Stedman earlier in the day on April 1. Vernon was then arrested.
Further investigation led to the identification of Kenon and Jordan. The lieutenant said officers had enough probable cause to obtain the warrants against the pair.
Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton tipped his hat first to the citizen willing to get involved and secondly to Cumberland and City of Clinton authorities for their help with the cases.
“It's critically important that citizens get involved when they see suspicious activity or people they don't know in their neighborhoods. I know I say it a lot but it's true, and maybe it's finally beginning to resonate with people. I cannot stress it enough: if you see something that doesn't look right, call. Stuff like this goes on all the time, and watchful eyes can make a difference. This most recent case is proof of that,” Thornton said.
“Staying vigilant is vital. In this case, had the citizen not seen and acted, we might not have gotten this far in solving these crimes.”
Thornton offered thanks to other law enforcement agencies who assisted in the case, including Cumberland, who brought three tracking dogs to help in the search effort, and Clinton's Police Department who gave use of their tracking dog to assist as well.
“This was the combined efforts of all these agencies and I greatly appreciate it,” the sheriff stressed.
Working together, whether with other law enforcement agencies or citizens providing information, or both, Thornton said, helped ensure better safety for all citizens.
Vernon was taken to the Sampson County Detention Center where she remained Thursday under a $10,000 secured bond.
The search continues for Jordan and Kenon.