3 arrests made in home burglary scheme

Published 12:50 pm Monday, March 8, 2010

Three people have been arrested in connection with a string of burglaries in Chilton County and surrounding areas.

The burglaries all involved the suspects visiting homes for sale with a real estate agent and allegedly stealing jewelry and other valuables while inside.

Lisa Watts Harrelson, 36, of Montevallo; Marilyn Sue Jernigan, 54, of Nashville, Tenn.; and James Marty Reed, 54, of Athens have each been charged with two counts of third-degree burglary and two counts of first-degree theft of property.

Chilton County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Shane Mayfield said the three hit at least 20 homes in Chilton County, Shelby County, Hoover, Mountain Brook, Trussville, Homewood and possibly Athens.

Mayfield said the typical case involved the suspects taking $10,000 or more in property.

“Basically, they all played a role in distracting the realtor or the homeowner while the others would walk around and look for property to steal,” Mayfield said.

Harrelson and Jernigan are being held at the Chilton County Jail under an $80,000 bond, and Reed is being held by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

A Hoover real estate agent became suspicious after showing the suspects a home and wrote down the license plate number of the vehicle the suspects were driving, which led officers to focus the investigation on Harrelson.

Harrelson was also identified by a Chilton County real estate agent and was listed as the guardian who would pick up a child from Meadowview Elementary School in Alabaster.

Chilton County’s Sheriff’s Department deputies and Alabaster Police arrested Harrelson and Jernigan shortly after school let out March 5.

Officers then talked to Reed over the telephone and convinced him to surrender at the Calera Walmart.

Evidence from the Chilton County burglaries was found at a residence in Calera that was used by the suspects.

A small amount of stolen jewelry was recovered from a pawn shop in Calera, and Mayfield said officers are still trying to track down most of the stolen property, which had been sold to jewelry buyers that travel from town to town.

Unlike pawn shops, those merchants are not required by state law to keep records of their transactions, and items bought are usually melted down.

“Given where it went, it’s doubtful it even exists anymore,” Mayfield said. “It also hinders our investigation. That’s the reason these people were doing this.”