Ratcliffe Cove Road targeted by thieves

Detectives seeking suspects
By DeeAnna Haney | Aug 14, 2014
Nolan May

Since early June, there have been five break-ins at different homes in the Ratcliffe Cove Road community, with the most recent as late as last week.

Detectives believe each case shares the same suspects, at least two people, who are breaking into the homes and stealing thousands of dollars worth of power tools, firearms, jewelry and more.

In the recent case, the homeowners found their home was broken into while they were away on vacation, amounting to about $30,000 in stolen property when it was all said and done, said Lt. Tony Cope with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office.

"They're going through and picking the high dollar items," Cope said of the unidentified suspects.

Detectives ask residents in that community to call the Sheriff's Office if they recall seeing any suspicious people or vehicles in the area over the past two months to help them identify a suspect. Cope said people should also call the Sheriff's Office if anyone has offered to sell them power tools or guns.

It's important for residents across the county to keep their doors and windows locked when they are away on vacation or even a trip to the grocery store, no matter how safe their neighborhood may seem, Cope said.

The cases on Ratcliffe Cove Road are similar to one that was recently solved that occurred on Scruggs Circle in Canton. Three men allegedly broke into a home while the family was away on a weekend vacation, making away with more than $30,000 worth of property including guns, gun safes, ammunition, jewelry, chainsaws, hand tools and even a 4-wheeler.

It was neighbors who led detectives to the suspects after describing vehicles they had seen in the driveway while the family was still out of town.

The investigation led detectives to the home of 36-year-old Steve Hilton in Waynesville, where they were given consent to search his vehicle and found some of the stolen items, Cope said.

They later learned Hilton broke into the home with the help of Rocky Vincent, 57, and Nolan May, 37, who was an acquaintance of the victims.

The three suspects were arrested and charged with breaking and entering, larceny and possession of stolen goods with more charges forthcoming.

A handful of the dozens of stolen items have been recovered so far from pawn shops in Cosby Tennessee. The suspects also tossed some of the items over a bank in Tennessee.

There are some precautions people can take to help detectives recover expensive items if they are stolen, Cope said.

When purchasing firearms, electronics or power and hand tools, it's useful for people to record the serial numbers on each item to have on file in the event of a larceny. That serial number is unique to that item and helps detectives identify the item if it is stolen and sold at a pawn shop or elsewhere.

Another option is to photograph valuables in the home or store jewelry and other valuables in a safety deposit box at a bank.

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