ST. GEORGE — After a four month investigation and more than 30 reported business burglaries, the St. George Police Department has arrested three suspects on suspicion of burglary and recovered stolen property worth more than $75,000.
Shale Thompson, 41, Keshia Peterson, 38, and Stephen Gardner, 40, all of St. George, have been arrested and charged in connection with their alleged involvement in a string of business burglaries that occurred throughout the St. George area, St. George Police Officer Lona Trombley said at a media conference Thursday.
“We believe these three individuals were working together with possibly a fourth individual,” Trombley said.
The burglaries reportedly began occurring in December 2015 with a majority of the burglaries occurring in the middle of the night. Over the course of the crime spree, police estimate the suspects caused more than $30,000 worth of damage to local businesses.
The burglaries spurred an extensive investigation by the St. George Police Department, Police Lt. Thad Feltner said, consisting of numerous man hours over the four-month span and officers adjusting their normal schedules to work through the night.
“We put all the similarities of all these business burglaries together, going ‘OK, this is the same group of people or person’ – we didn’t know, at the time, how many people were involved,” Feltner said. “It took detectives responding to every scene to see what we could collect to connect these together.”
Most of the burglaries in this case were done by smashing a window, Feltner said, adding that cash was the target at all of the businesses.
“It was: Go in, see if they had cash, try to get that cash in whatever way they could, and then they would just take really weird things,” Feltner said. “I mean, we found wall clocks – they would take wall clocks, computers, tablets, clothing, doTERRA – a lot of doTERRA (essential oils). We recovered almost $50,000 just in doTERRA property.”
The key to connecting the suspects to the crimes was business surveillance footage, Feltner said, adding that some surveillance footage was more helpful than others.
“Some businesses provided such good surveillance video that it was like watching television,” Feltner said.
Feltner stressed the importance of business owners investing in a good surveillance system with a camera that works in the dark and provides high-quality video.
Through the video footage provided by targeted businesses, police were able to identify a specific vehicle at various burglaries.
“That helped us locate and pinpoint kind of the ring leader who we believe to be Shale Thompson,” Feltner said.
Thompson was located inside her home on March 24 where a search warrant was executed as a result of the investigation. According to court documents, numerous items stolen from various businesses were allegedly located in Thompson’s possession.
Some of the business burglaries detectives were reportedly able to connect Thompson to include: Tread Armament, Benja’s Thai restaurant, Everything Essential, Rediscovered Treasures, Green Valley Market, Sunland Hansen Insurance and Pro Health Chiropractic.
During a police interview, Thompson allegedly admitted to “doing ‘a lot’ of burglaries, stating so many she doesn’t really remember all of them,” according to court documents.
Thompson was arrested and booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility. Detectives requested Thompson be held in police custody without bail pending further investigation and additional charges. The request was granted by 5th District Judge Eric Ludlow.
On March 25, investigators interviewed Peterson who was incarcerated at the correctional facility on drug and shoplifting charges stemming from an unrelated March 17 incident.
According to court documents, Peterson allegedly confessed to her role in several of the burglaries, including Green Valley Market, Bubble Bath Car Wash, Iggy’s restaurant, McDonald and Associates, Hale Chiropractic, Everything Essentials, Benja’s Thai restaurant and Dairy Queen.
As this report is published, Peterson remains in police custody.
Gardner was arrested April 7 and charged for his involvement in the burglaries. Gardner allegedly confessed to the burglaries of Green Valley Market, Bubble Bath Car Wash, Iggy’s restaurant and a Chevron Taco Time, according to court documents.
As a result of the arrests, police were able to locate and return more than $75,000 worth of stolen property to the businesses.
Additional recovered property has yet to be returned to its rightful owner, Feltner said, encouraging anyone who feels they may be a victim of the burglary spree to call the St. George Police Department at 435-627-4300 and make an appointment to claim their stolen property.
“Since the arrest of Shale, Keshia, and Stephen, the St. George Police Department has seen a dramatic decrease in burglary calls,” Trombley said Thursday.
If you are a business owner, Feltner said it’s important to update your business keyholder information with the Police Department so that if a problem should arise at your business, the police will have current contact information and will be able to reach you in a timely matter.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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