September 14, 2013

Teens charged with crime spree

Charles Oliver

— M&D Auto Sales Manager Mohammad Masood said he was surprised at the youth of those charged with stealing a Ford Mustang and a Toyota Corolla from his Dalton lot.

“They are a bunch of kids. I guess they thought it was just playing around,” he said.

Sheriff Scott Chitwood said Friday the sheriff’s office had arrested six teenagers for a two-month spree of burglaries and automobile thefts, including the thefts from M&D. The crimes took place across Whitfield County and the city of Dalton.

One of the six, 17-year-old John Parrish, of 2647 Roberts Circle, Dalton, was charged as an adult with three counts of theft by taking automobile, two counts of second-degree burglary and criminal trespass.

The remaining five — three 14-year-olds, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old — face various charges in Juvenile Court. Because they have been charged as juveniles, officials say they can’t release their names.

“We can’t charge anyone under 17 as an adult,” said Maj. John Gibson with the sheriff’s office. “The district attorney may ask the court to charge younger people as adults. But that is rare in cases that only involve property crimes.”

According to a press release from Chitwood, the incidents started in early July and continued through late August.

“Members of the group have admitted to entering at least 100 vehicles at Walnut Square Mall and in neighborhoods throughout the county. On many of the instances they only stole small items such as change, cigarette lighters or chewing gum. The majority of these cases were unnoticed by the victim and not reported,” the press release said. “Members of the group stole a taxi that was parked at a residence on Hill Road, a vehicle from Miller Grove Drive, a vehicle from Frontier Trail, a vehicle from Hunters Circle, two vehicles during a burglary at M&D Auto Sales on Cleveland Road and a vehicle from Wheat Drive in Varnell.”

Members of the group are also charged with breaking into cars and stealing items from cars parked at residences on Ponders Drive, Frontier Trail, Kinnett Drive and Lynn Drive.

“Three members of the group are also charged with criminal trespass for attempting to enter the Compassion House on Hill Road through a window one evening,” the press release said.

The press release said that some of the group first came under suspicion after one of the cars stolen from M&D Auto Sales was involved in a wreck on Aug. 17 on Pleasant Grove Drive. The people in the vehicle fled, and a deputy later found members of the group walking in the area.

At one point, one of the teens was arrested for theft and placed in the Elbert Shaw Regional Youth Detention Center. He was released a week later to return to Coahullla Creek High School, where he was reportedly caught stealing an iPad. He has been charged with that theft also.

Officials said all six did not take part in all of the crimes. Rather, various combinations committed different crimes.

Gibson said the investigation is continuing and investigators are trying to determine if the group committed any other crimes and if any other individuals are involved.