SEBRING - An ill-fated decision by burglars to get rid of some stolen property helped Highlands County detectives arrest two suspects in nearly two dozen burglary cases involving tens of thousands of dollars of stolen property, a Highlands County Sheriff's Office sergeant said Wednesday.
Christopher James Hillier, 18, 3221 Jacklin Ave., Sebring, was arrested Sept. 4 and charged on 40 charges, including multiple counts of grand theft, criminal mischief and armed burglary. Hilier had been previously arrested, but new charges came about as part of a continuing investigation, said Sgt. Chris Smith of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.
So far, authorities believe that Hillier and another suspect were involved in 18 burglaries of residences from Avon Park to just south of Sebring, Sgt. Michael Abell of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office said.
Abell said the investigation conducted by himself and numerous other detectives showed that typically Hillier and the other suspect would find a remote house and go knock on the door.
"If no one was inside they would force open the door or knock out the window," Abell said.
They would steal computers and various other property, he said.
While investigating the burglaries, Abell said, detectives put out some information in the community. That resulted in getting a tip from a local motel employee in the Avon Park area, he said.
The man found that someone had disposed of a computer and some papers and was able to determine that the items came from a room where Hillier and a co-defendant were staying, he said.
Abell said the man was suspicious and it was later discovered the computer was stolen previously.
Apparently, he said, the burglars found that the computer was broken or it was password protected.
Detective then were able to find the identities of the suspects and began watching them, he said.
They watched Hillier's residence - he was apparently living with his mother at the time - and when safe neighborhoods team members saw him leave, they asked his mother for permission to search, Abell said.
They found stolen property, there as well as eventually at other locations, he said.
The detectives also had stopped Hiller's vehicle and Hillier tried to flee, but only got 100 yards, Abell said.
Hillier denied being involved in the burglaries, but later admitted he helped commit some of them, Abell said.
Eventually, he showed detectives where many of the crimes occurred, Abell said.
"Several people have identified (property recovered) as items stolen from their houses," he said.