By Jason A. Smith
Hampton police have arrested Cardiss Jartez Brownlee, a 26-year-old resident, and allegedly linked him to the theft of copper wiring from 12 to 15 vacant homes in the city.
Brownlee appeared in Henry County Magistrate Court Wednesday, represented by the Public Defender's Office. Judge Donnie Patton set his bond at $50,000, and bound his case over to Superior Court, according to Hampton Police Detective Art Sparks.
Brownlee is suspected of breaking into homes in Hampton's Mainstreet Commons, and Liberty Square subdivisions, according to Sparks. "We've got about 14 different houses that were hit," said Sparks. "A lot of the homes had been foreclosed on, or abandoned. They were all empty when they were burglarized. He was already wanted on several warrants, by Henry County Police."
Sparks added that the police department's investigation "came together," following a Sept. 17 burglary at a vacant home, located at 832 Betsy Ross Trail in the Liberty Square subdivision. Authorities believe Brownlee and another burglary suspect, 28-year-old Boris Rahman Thomas, broke into the house together.
"A contractor pulls into the subdivision, and sees a blue Dodge Ram pickup truck at the house," said Sparks. "He writes down the tag number of the truck. About that time, [a] black male comes out of the house with a big black trash bag, that we believe contained copper from inside the house."
Police identified the driver of the truck as Thomas, who was arrested and charged with burglary on Sept. 18, said Sparks.
Thomas was in Magistrate Court Sept. 20, where his bond was set at $15,000, according to Henry County Sheriff's Maj. Jeff Norman. No further details on Thomas were available Wednesday, Norman said.
Hampton Police Chief Rad Porter said officers were looking for Brownlee and spotted him Nov. 15, near the area of Oak Street, in Hampton. "He ran into a wooded area that's full of trails, which also has a city easement for sewage and stormwater," said the chief. "They located him in a sewer. He had actually slid a manhole cover over himself."
Brownlee has been in the Henry County Jail without bond since his arrest, according to Maj. Norman. He is charged with four counts of burglary, in connection with a series of alleged break-ins that occurred July 21-23, on Deodar Lane in Hampton.
Police linked Brownlee with Thomas through phone records, Sparks added.
The detective said Brownlee confessed to the Sept. 17 burglary, and admitted involvement in other burglary cases. "We managed to solve almost all of our copper-theft cases, involving foreclosed or abandoned homes, so we're pretty happy about that," Sparks said.
Maj. Norman said, even if Brownlee makes bond on the most recent charge, he will not be released from jail because of the earlier burglary arrests.