Deputies make arrest in series of break-ins
By Nelson Bland
Published in News on October 29, 2009 1:46 PM
KENANSVILLE -- An arrest has been made in connection with more than 104 residential jewelry thefts across Duplin and Onslow counties, officials announced.
Sheriff Blake Wallace said deputies arrested Thomas Duane Ruckman, 34, 766 Grace St., Jacksonville, Wednesday in connection with the case. He was charged with 24 counts of breaking and entering, 10 counts of larceny after breaking and entering, nine counts of injury to real property and nine counts of possession of stolen goods.
Ruckman was jailed under bonds totaling $240,000 in Duplin and $658,000 in Onslow.
Wallace said more than $20,000 in stolen jewelry was recovered as a result of the arrest. However, he said jewelry stolen earlier had already been sold and melted down.
"There's no telling how much of that there was," he said.
The stolen jewelry included numerous items of gold, silver and diamonds, from earrings and bracelets to rings and chains.
Blake said the investigation will continue into the 24 breaking and enterings in Duplin County and 80 more in neighboring Onslow. He also said there might be unsolved related breaking and enterings in neighboring counties, including Wayne and Lenoir, and sheriffs in those counties have been notified about the case.
The Duplin arrest occurred after an intense investigation, increased patrols and surveillance work, Wallace said.
Wallace said the items were being sold to some jewelers, but no pawn shops in the Jacksonville area. He said the jewelers cooperated with law enforcement officers investigating the case, but there is a possibility that some jewelers might face charges.
The break-ins and thefts were somewhat unique because of what was taken, Wallace added.
"Whoever perpetrated the crimes walked right past other valuable items during the breaking and enterings, leaving them alone and going straight for the jewelry," he said.
He said that while one wide-screen television set was taken, many other such televisions were not bothered and neither were guns, computers and other goods.
"These breaking and enterings occurred all over the county, from Albertson on the north end to Wallace on the south end," Wallace said.
He said the break-ins were committed during the day when the occupants were away at work.
The arrest came after saturated patrols by Duplin and Onslow county sheriff's investigators, Wallace said. He said deputies were able to obtain information from witnesses "who had seen a certain type vehicle in a couple of different locations" in Duplin County.
"Working off that information, we were able to identify Mr. Ruckman," Wallace said.
Ruckman was stopped while operating a motor vehicle and arrested by deputies while he was allegedly "en route to one of the jewelers to dispose of some goods," Wallace said.