A couple who deliver newspapers in Union County are accused of breaking into customers’ homes while they were out of town and stealing jewelry, coins and other items.
The suspects, Amanda and Charles Bowers of Monroe, worked for an independent contractor and were carriers who delivered the Observer and a Monroe paper, The Enquirer-Journal. It was not clear Saturday which paper or papers the victims were customers of.
Victims in a dozen cases told investigators they lost more than $30,000 worth of items from their homes, according to a dozen incident reports.
The Bowers were each charged recently with multiple counts of breaking and entering and larceny. Records show Charles Bowers remained in jail Saturday under a $310,000 bond. Amanda Bowers was not listed as a Union County inmate.
The couple are suspected in as many as 20 home break-ins in Monroe, Wesley Chapel and other areas in Union.
Union County deputies said the victims in the cases all had newspaper subscriptions and had temporarily stopped delivery when they were scheduled to go out of town.
“These folks would then know who wasn’t home and would enter homes and remove items,” said investigator Andrew Mullis of the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
Mullis said investigators have been working on the case for the past year to year and a half. “We knew there was a connection,” he said, “and were just recently able to put all the dots together.”
WCNC-TV, the Observer’s news partner, reported that the Bowers worked routes for both the Observer and The Enquirer-Journal. The Monroe newspaper is closed on weekends, and a message left for its circulation department wasn’t immediately returned.
Jim Lamm, the Observer’s vice president of circulation, said the company was notified about the Bowers’ arrests on Friday by its independent contractor who handles deliveries in Union County. Contractors are responsible for hiring carriers, who are not direct employees of the paper.
Lamm said he has never experienced a problem like this in his 40-year-career at six papers, and staff believes nothing like this has happened before at the Observer.
One of the break-in victims, Cathy O’Brien, described the crimes as an invasion of privacy. “It kind of shatters your confidence a little bit,” she said.
According to a police report, the O’Briens reported as missing jewelry, a wallet, iPod dock and other items valued at about $1,100.
“We were fortunate that we didn’t lose anything really big, but we lost enough that you still miss it,” O’Brien said. “I’m still looking for things but I’m very glad they have been caught because it makes you very mad.”
Lamm said the Observer plans to talk with its independent contractors to try to prevent an incident like this from happening again. He said that while he doesn’t believe the company has been contacted yet by police, the Observer would cooperate with investigators.
“We’re very pleased on the behalf of the Observer that these folks have been apprehended and taken care of and put into the justice system,” he said.
Counts works for WCNC-TV.