05/23/07 — Charges filed in armed robbery

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Charges filed in armed robbery

By Lee Williams
Published in News on May 23, 2007 1:45 PM

An assistant manager and a live-in family friend face charges in connection with an armed robbery that took place at Advance Auto Parts on North Berkeley Boulevard late Saturday night.

Jennifer Lynn Thomas, 27, of 475 Steeple Lake Road, LaGrange, faces charges of aiding and abetting robbery with a dangerous weapon and aiding and abetting kidnapping.

Mrs. Thomas' friend, James (D.J.) Warters, 24, faces charges of robbery with a dangerous weapon and kidnapping.

The charges stem from allegations Warters held up the store and threatened two employees, Ms. Thomas, the assistant manager and 18-year-old Cindy Raper of Pikeville, with a steak knife at about 10:15 p.m., according to Goldsboro police reports.

A bystander saw the robbery taking place and called police.

A slew of city police officers, on and off-duty, swarmed the building and subdued Warters in the store parking lot. The officers also recovered the $6,000 he had allegedly stole from the business.

Two ambulances also were dispatched to the store.

Ms. Raper received a cut on her arm during the encounter with the robber, police said.

No serious injuries were reported.

After investigating the case, police determined the armed robbery was an inside job and charged Mrs. Thomas for allegedly helping Warters commit the crime.

However, Mrs. Thomas' husband, Luther Thomas, refutes the allegations. He said the idea his wife was involved was "completely false."

Thomas said he and his wife are Christians. They took Warters, his wife, Malissa, and their two children into their home to help them get back on their feet.

"I think he had it planned from the very start," Thomas said. "It seems to me that he set her up. She's never done anything like that. She's never been in trouble."

Thomas hopes his wife's defense attorney, Charles Gurley, will clear her name. He said it was wrong for police to assume that just because they shared the same address that she must have had something to do with it.

"That's the first conclusion that the detective jumped to," he said. "There's no evidence that she had anything to do with that. She's offered to take a lie detector test. I don't know why they won't let her. It's 99 percent effective."

Warters and Mrs. Thomas are being held at the Wayne County Jail on a $30,000 secured bond.

Thomas said he is working to have the bond lowered. He said Mrs. Thomas needs to be at home with the couple's two children whom she adores.

Thomas said the incident has taught him a valuable lesson.

"You've got to watch who you are around," he said.