At 3 pm on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, a friendly Hispanic girl came into Murphey the Jeweler (Tyler, Tx.) and asked to see a display of high-end diamond bracelets. She was attractive, but stood out to several employees because of her heavily tattooed forearms. She was on her cell phone telling the person on the other end that she was about to look at some bracelets and that she had bought her mother a gift here before. She hung up the phone as our salesperson removed the entire display of 6 bracelets from the showcase. The girl immediately grabbed the entire display and fled the store. Our salesperson yelled out several times to alert the other employees of a problem and the immediately ran out behind the thief.
Jeweler Lauren Richard acted quickly to set off the silent alarm and then she ran after the girl as well. The salesperson was able to see the make, model, and color of the get-away vehicle and part of the temporary license plate numbers.
Manager Kim Benson placed a call to the police within seconds and was able to describe the girl and the vehicle in which she fled. Following the call to police, Kim called her husband, Kyle, who is an investigator with the Smith County District Attorney’s office. She relayed the information to him about the suspect and the vehicle so he could get the word out as well.
Amazingly, as he was gazing out the window of his 4th floor office in downtown Tyler, he spotted, and was able to photograph, a vehicle matching that description. Meanwhile, officers with the Tyler Police department had arrived on the scene and began to gather information about the crime. It was determined within minutes that over $60,000 worth of bracelets had been stolen.
At the same time officers began to arrive at Murphey the Jeweler, Investigator Benson was following the suspects’ vehicle through heavy traffic on the other side of town. He continued to tail the vehicle in his unmarked police car until a Tyler Police unit could move in behind them and attempt to make the stop. The suspects refused to pull over and began to drive erratically. Tyler Police suspended their pursuit soon after due to a no-chase policy the department has adopted. Kyle, however, was given the go-ahead to continue tailing them until another agency could respond. It was clear, at this point, that the suspects’ were heading for the interstate and into another county. Kyle had police dispatch call ahead to the neighbor agencies and give them the information so that they could be on the lookout for the vehicle.
Back at the store, other officers, detectives, and even a crime scene unit had arrived. Employees were interviewed, security tapes were viewed and copied, and surfaces were dusted for prints. It was also determined, during this time, that an Hispanic male had come into the store shortly before the girl came in and asked a different salesperson to view the same set of bracelets. The salesperson was very suspicious of the man because he was heavily tattooed on his face and neck. She did not remove any merchandise from the showcase and the man left soon after.
By this time, everyone knew that the suspects had been spotted and were being pursued by several agencies. The Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Department dispatched several units when the vehicle reached their county. The chase reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour at times and took several off-road excursions. Finally, after 12 miles of dangerous driving, the vehicle slowly stopped because, it was later determined, they ran out of gas. The girl, Valerie Contreras, the guy, Joe Rodriguez, and a third girl, were immediately cuffed and arrested. After a search of the vehicle, officers located all missing bracelets hidden in the CD changer.
Special thanks to Kim Benson, Sales Manager, Murphey the Jeweler, Tyler, Texas for sending this article in to Southern Jewelry News.
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