Burglary suspect abandons child, jumps bail

WESTFIELD – A thief who was apparently stealing on spec hit the jackpot when a Springfield Road storage unit was hit late last month for cash and property valued at about $80,000.
A caller from the storage facility called police March 28 to report that two of the storage units had been broken into and, when Det. Brian Freeman responded to investigate, the manager of the business told him that he found signs of forcible entry to two of four storage units in a cul-de-sac inside the storage building.
Freeman learned that $30,000 in cash and a collection of jewelry and collectible items valued at about $50,000 had been reported stolen from one of the storage spaces. The owner of the other storage unit said that nothing appeared to be missing.
Freeman said that when he asked the manager who rented the storage unit between the two that were broken into, the one which wasn’t forcibly entered, the names he was given immediately raised his suspicious because both the man and woman, who claim to be married, are well known to him from other incidents.
He became more suspicious when the manager said that, although the actual doors of the storage units are out of sight of a security camera, he had viewed video which showed the male suspect tenant come up the stairs and turn left, away from his unit and toward the burgled unit. He said he also saw him then go back and forth, from one side of the stairs to the other, as if he were going into both his unit and the unit where the valuables had been stolen.
Freeman said that he didn’t know if the thief knew that valuable property was stored in the unit.
“How they knew (valuable property was inside), I don’t know. They might have just hit the lottery,” he said.
Freeman said that the victim explained that her home had been damaged and she had removed all her valuables to her storage unit, both to make room for the repairs needed and to keep the property safe while a succession of contractors were in her home to make needed repairs.
The woman said that she had last seen the missing property about a month earlier.
He said that his investigation into property sold to area pawn shops and jewelry stores revealed that the female suspect, Chelsea Lee Smith, 24, of 33 Norman Terrace, Feeding Hills, had sold jewelry which fit the description of some of the missing property to a West Springfield jeweler.
On Tuesday, Freeman and Det. Sgt. Steven K. Dickinson visited the jewelry store to take custody of the stolen property that had been sold there and they hit their own jackpot when Freeman recognized Smith at the counter speaking with a jeweler.
“As soon as I walked in she looked like she saw a ghost. It was funny,” Freeman said. “We were there to get other stuff she sold and she was there trying to sell more.”
He also said that Smith seems to like him and is always friendly toward him. He said she approached him in the store, as she is wont to do when she encounters him, and showed him what she said was the new wedding ring she had bought at the store.
While Freeman was speaking with Smith, Dickinson was requesting assistance from West Springfield police. Smith was taken into custody.
She was arrested by West Springfield police and surrendered to the custody of a Westfield officer sent to get her. She was booked in Westfield on charges of receiving stolen property valued more than $250 and, because a small amount of heroin was found in her car, possession of a Class A drug. Freeman said a charge of larceny by false pretenses, for selling property that was not hers to sell and that the buyer will not be able to keep, is pending.
He said that he applied for warrants against her alleged husband for larceny of property valued more than $250 and for breaking and entering.
The victim of the burglary identified the vast array of items recovered but, to date, none of the $30,000 in cash reportedly stolen has been recovered.
Smith told Freeman that they only stole $6,000 but another person Freeman interviewed said Smith claimed to have won $10,000 with a lottery scratch ticket.
Smith was released from police custody on $1,000 cash bail her mother supplied, Freeman reports. He said that although Smith appeared in court the next day, she and the male suspect left the court before her arraignment.
The couple allegedly went to Chicopee where they left their child, a toddler, with a relative saying that they had some errands to do.
They have not been seen since, Freeman reports.
He said that the Department of Children and Families has taken custody of the child.

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