Hickory Police are investigating 13 recent business break-ins, mostly in the vicinity of the Highway 127 corridor in northeast Hickory.  The first incident was reported on December 19 with the most recent reported on January 15.

In most cases, the suspect or suspects have gained entry by breaking a window, though in several incidents a pry tool was used to force open a door.  In cases where video or photographic evidence is available, the suspect appears to wear similar clothing and has a similar build.  The suspect’s M.O. is similar in each case, leading Investigators to believe at least some of the incidents may be connected.

The break-ins occurred as the businesses were closed, either in the early morning hours on the day they were reported or the previous night.  In two instances over the New Year’s holiday, the break-ins may have happened two days prior to the filing of a police report.

A wide variety of items were taken, including cash, firearms, a portable A/C unit, a microwave oven, computer tablets & accessories, cash register drawers, a safe and power tools.  Numerous windows and doors have been damaged, along with a security gate and an outdoor motion light.

No injuries have been reported.

Anyone with information regarding the break-ins should contact Investigator Shanna Hudson at 828-261-2020 or shudson@hickorync.gov.  

Investigators encourage citizens and business owners to be vigilant and contact Police if suspicious persons are observed near businesses or residences.  In addition, business owners should ensure that camera systems are functional and operating effectively, verifying that images are clear and encompass entries, exits and register areas.  Business owners should also check lighting in and around the business and review money-handling procedures.

Security surveys are provided free of charge by the Hickory Police Department’s Community Services Unit.  Call 828-261-2644 to make an appointment.

32-year-old Mark David Smith, Jr. of Shuffler Road in Morganton has been arrested by Burke Co. Sheriff’s Officers on a charge of felony indecent liberties.

Yesterday (January 17), a six-year-old juvenile victim told authorities at the Child Advocacy Center’s Gingerbread House that Smith, a registered sex offender, had engaged in inappropriate sexualized behaviors. Among other behavior, the suspect allegedly exposed himself to the juvenile and forced the juvenile to sit on his lap. The juvenile victim described Smith’s behavior, in detail.

Sheriff’s Investigators, in conjunction with Child Protective Services, investigated and substantiated the allegations.

Smith was taken into custody without incident yesterday and was confined at the Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility under a $25,000 secured bond. He was scheduled to make a first appearance in District Court today.

Smith is on the sex offender registry as the result of an unspecified 2010 out-of-state conviction.

17-year-old Esan Mekhi Brawley of North Center Street of Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police at about 4:15 yesterday afternoon (January 17) on one felony count each of breaking & entering, larceny after breaking & entering and possession of stolen goods or property, plus misdemeanor counts of possession of marijuana up to half an ounce and possession of drug paraphernalia.

His arrest stems from an incident late on the night of January 23, 2016 or early the following morning when Police responded to a B&E call at the Honey-Pik store on North Center Street. Someone had shattered a front window and taken tobacco products from the store.

Brawley was identified as the suspect and was initially arrested on the 24th. He was re-arrested at his residence yesterday, without incident. Brawley was processed and released under a $10,000 unsecured bond. An appearance in Superior Court was set for today in Newton.

44-year-old Yuronna Jamell Bonds of 8th Avenue Drive S.W. in Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police at about 4:30 p.m. yesterday (January 17) on one felony count of habitual shoplifting and one felony count of possession of a schedule II controlled substance.

She was arrested in connection to shoplifting incident at Steinmart on North Center Street in Hickory.  On December 4 of last year, a male and a female were observed taking items from the store without paying.  The stolen items included watches, jeans and wallets.

The female, Yuronna Bonds, was initially arrested later that same day when Police found the suspect vehicle at the Blue Ridge Heights apartment complex in Hickory.  The male suspect, 58-year-old Gary Vinson, was arrested on December 27 on a misdemeanor larceny charge.  Some of the stolen merchandise was recovered.

Following her arrest yesterday, Bonds was placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $12,500 secured bond.  An appearance in Superior Court was scheduled today in Newton.  Vinson has a District Court date on February 4.

40-year-old Christopher Bennit Robinson of Country View Lane in Hickory was arrested early this morning on two felony counts of robbery with firearms or other dangerous weapons.  He was also charged with a parole violation.

Robinson is the suspect in an armed robbery at the Holiday Inn Express in Hickory on December 14 of last year.  He was armed with a knife.

His arrest comes in the wake of another armed robbery that occurred early this morning at the Circle K convenience store on North Center Street in Hickory.  The robbery happened at about 3:30 a.m. today.  Robinson was again armed with a knife.

He is also a suspect in at least one armed robbery in Burke County.

Robinson was taken into custody without incident less than 15 minutes after the Circle K robbery in the vicinity of the Belle Hollow Shopping Center, also on North Center Street.  He was still armed with a knife at the time of his arrest.  A gold 2004 Toyota Corolla was impounded.

Robinson was placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $150,000 secured bond.  A first appearance in District Court was set for tomorrow in Newton.

30-year-old Justin Shay Frisbee of Durango Street in Claremont was arrested by Hickory Police shortly after 9:30 last night for failure to appear on one felony count of obtaining property by false pretense. He was also served with two misdemeanor warrants out of Alexander County for failure to appear on charges of speeding and driving while license revoked.

The felony charge against Frisbee comes in connection to a May 2015 incident at Lowe’s Home Improvement where he was an employee. He is accused of making unauthorized purchases with a company credit card. Total property loss was estimated at approximately $700.

Frisbee was taken into custody Tuesday and placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility under a $16,000 secured bond. Appearances in District Court were set for February 13 and March 20.

45-year-old Jerome Lee McNeely of Liberty Church Road in Hickory has been arrested by Burke Co. Sheriff’s Officer on charges of felony breaking & entering and felony safecracking.

Events leading to McNeely’s arrest began at about four o’clock Saturday morning (January 14) when Deputies responded to a break-in at a physician’s office on South Main Street in Hildebran.  When Deputies arrived, a suspect fled on foot.  Detectives arrived to process the scene.  

At about 7:40 a.m. the same day, a Deputy saw a male subject walking along Wilson Road near 40th Street N.W., but the suspect ran when the Deputy approached him for questioning.  After a short chase through the woods, the male subject was apprehended and identified as Jerome Lee McNeely.  

McNeely was arrested and placed in the Burke-Catawba District Confinement Facility under a $50,000 secured bond.  A first appearance in District Court was scheduled today (January 17) in Morganton.

The investigation is ongoing.

30-year-old Jamie Louis Sullivan of 18th Street N.W. in Hickory was arrested by Hickory Police shortly after 2 a.m. yesterday (January 16) on one felony count of possession of a schedule II controlled substance.

Sullivan’s arrest stems from an incident on September 8 of last year.  He was involved in a single-vehicle accident on the 900 block of Highland Avenue N.E. in Hickory.  The vehicle Sullivan was driving hit two telephone poles.

Investigators allegedly found 0.1 grams of methamphetamine on his person.  At the time of his initial arrest, Sullivan was also charged with D.W.I. and driving while license revoked.

Sullivan was taken into custody without incident Monday at Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory.  He was placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with bond set at $15,000, secured.  An appearance in Superior Court was scheduled today in Newton.

Burke County Sheriff’s Deputies are investigating an armed robbery at the Fast Track Convenience Store in Hildebran off of Interstate 40, exit 119.

The incident occurred just after 5:30 Sunday morning (January 15).  Deputies responded to the scene and spoke to the store clerk.  The clerk said a black male walked into the store, pulled something from his pants pocket and demanded money.  The suspect took money and other items from the store.  He then got into his vehicle, which was parked at the gas pumps, and fled the scene, heading towards Henry River Road.  

The suspect was described as a black male, about five feet tall with dreads.  He was wearing a hoodie and blue jeans.  The suspect vehicle is a mid-90s model gold Mitsubishi.

The Sheriff’s Criminal Investigation Division is working the case.  Anyone with information regarding the robbery should call Crime Stoppers at 828-437-3333.

26-year-old Joshua Shane Strickland of Blackburn Ridge Road in Lincolnton was arrested by Hickory Police at 7:25 Saturday night (January 14) on one felony count of possession of a schedule I controlled substance and one misdemeanor count each of possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and possession of a schedule VI controlled substance.

He was arrested after Police responded to the parking lot at the Big Lots store on Highway 70 S.W. in Hickory to perform a health check on a subject who was asleep in a black Nissan Sentra.  Officers woke the man, Joshua Strickland, and saw a prescription pill bottle containing a small amount of marijuana.  Strickland refused medical treatment.

A subsequent search turned up three used syringes and half of a Xanax pill.  In all, 0.7 grams of methamphetamine and 0.6 grams of marijuana were found.

Strickland was taken into custody without incident.  He was taken to the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with no bond amount listed.  He has since been released.  An appearance in District Court was set for today (January 17) in Newton.

Strickland also has a District Court date coming up on January 23 for multiple felony breaking & entering and larceny charges, as well as a number of vehicular offenses.  He will also appear in Superior Court on felony meth charge on March 6, all in Newton.

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