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Thrift-store thief steals bargains

December 14, 2010

An unknown suspect robbed a thrift store Tuesday in Newton, leaving the store's owner with one clue about his identity: a blue and silver bicycle.

Martha Navarrete, owner of Martha's Bargain Thrift Store on West 20th Street in Newton, noticed something was amiss in her store when she walked into the building Tuesday about 9:45 a.m.

"Everything was in disorder, so I said, 'Something's not normal,'" Navarrete said.

She examined the store more closely and discovered something was wrong: her store was broken into.

Clothes were strewn across the floor, and Navarrete's desk was in disarray. She continued to find things out of place in the store and realized several items of clothes and jewelry were missing.

The thief took six pairs of men's pants from Martha's Bargain Thrift Store. Instead of taking the hangers with the pants, Navarrete said, the thief took the pants off the hangers and placed the hangers on top of the clothing rack.

The thief also took the store register's cash drawer, which contained change from the day's business. Also missing is a consignment dress, which was displayed on a hanger in the store's window.

Navarrete had to call the dress owner Tuesday and alert her that the $40 dress was gone.

The thief also moved around clothing racks and damaged the plastic exterior of a gum ball machine.

"I think it's someone who has probably been in the store before," Navarrete said. "How else would he know what is in here?"

The thief broke into the store through the back door, which Navarrete said appeared to be pried open with a screwdriver or another hard object.

Navarrete called Newton Police shortly after she discovered the damage. She said police arrived on the scene, noted the damage and took fingerprints around the store cash register.

"(A police officer) mentioned he suspected someone of the crime and went to go question him," Navarrete said, adding police said they will call her when an arrest is made.

Navarrete said no one was arrested. If an arrest is made, however, Navarrete has a message for the perpetrator.

"If this guy would have come in and said, 'Ma'am, I really need a pair of pants,' I would have given it to him for free," she said. "By heart, I like to help people. Believe me, he would have gotten that help. ... He's going to end up in jail for things I could have given him."

The scary thing about the incident, Navarrete said, is that someone could have been in the store when the thief was there.

Navarrete's husband arrived at the store Tuesday about 8 a.m. to bring the store's trash can from the front of the store to the rear. He didn't go inside the building at the time, but as he dragged the trash can to the back, he noticed a blue and silver 10-speed bicycle partially hidden in some bushes near the store.

Navarrete's husband didn't think anything was out of the ordinary, so it was only after the break-in was discovered that her husband connected the bike with the larceny.

Navarrete said she thinks the bicycle belongs to the thief, and he was inside the building when her husband arrived at the store.

"I have so much faith in God that I'm not nervous (about another break-in)," Navarrete said. "It's just the sadness of knowing there's someone out there who doesn't have a job and steals from others."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Newton Police Department at (828) 695-4278.

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