Doughnuts, cops and a felon’s appetite for stealing from hotel customers during continental breakfast apparently came together to solve a crime ring with tentacles reaching to the South Carolina coast.
And the two alleged culprits, both with felony records for burglary, could face life in prison if convicted of burglary and conspiracy and are being held in jail without bond.
Eric Lavan Lokey, 50, of Orangeburg, with convictions for hotel burglary and other crimes dating back 25 years including similar hotel break-ins while hotel residents ate croissants and doughnuts in Charleston that he recently got out of prison for, said little at his first court hearing Friday morning on charges of stealing almost $4,500 in jewelry and hearing aids from hotel customers in Rock Hill Sunday and Monday.
Lokey claimed to be self-employed - although it is unclear what that employment was.
“If I can’t get out, I won’t have any kind of financial support at all,” Lokey told Judge Dolores Williams Friday morning. But Williams denied bond because Lokey faces up to life if convicted.
Lokey’s alleged co-conspirator, John Eric Cape, 48, of Mount Pleasant, who also has past burglary convictions from 1987 and 1988 according to court officials ,claimed in court Friday that he has “exculpatory evidence” that will show he was in Charleston when the burglaries happened earlier this week.
Cape, who said he worked for a health care company but will be fired for not showing up because he is in jail, did not offer any explanation of how he was allegedly in possession of the jewelry and hearing aids stolen from the two hotel rooms in Rock Hill when arrested Thursday, however.
“I want a preliminary hearing as soon as possible,” Cape said in court
Cape also left court denied bond and facing life if convicted. Both, apparently now indigent, qualified for public defenders.
Yet police say they were not indigent when arrested. The bust, police say, came about with a combination of a quick acting motel clerk and an alert crime analyst, working with Rock Hill Police Department officers,to make arrests and recover the stolen merchandise, said Mark Bollinger, spokesman for the department.
Here’s how a number cruncher and late-night desk clerk and the doughnuts served during a continental breakfast teamed up to make the bust:
Rock Hill crime analyst Damien Williams, going over recent Rock Hill hotel theft reports, noticed that thefts at area hotels happened while customers were out at breakfast, Bollinger said. Customers at the Marriott and Hampton Inn had been robbed, reports show, and Williams spotted the trend.
Williams contacted other Carolinas police departments and two departments remembered the method of a guy who recently got out of prison for similar crimes.
That man’s name is Eric Lavan Lokey. And minutes before midnight Wednesday, Lokey was standing right in front of the clerk at the Quality Inn & Suites, police reports and records show.
Lokey was arrested in Cornelius, N.C., on Dec. 29, Mecklenburg County arrest records show. He has many other arrests, too.
Lokey, 50, from Orangeburg and other places according to court records, is a convicted felon who has a criminal history of burglaries, larceny, forgery and credit card fraud dating back to 1991, State Law Enforcement Division records show. His most recent prison stay was for violating parole after a 10-year sentence for burglary and other crimes in Charleston in 2003. In those cases, Lokey was a suspect in dozens of hotel break-ins, including brazen crimes of stealing credit cards and other items while hotel clients were eating complimentary continental breakfasts at hotels.
Just like Rock Hill this week.
After the alert from Williams, the crime analyst, the clerk at Rock Hill’s Quality Inn using a tool called Rock Hill York County Connect – a type of crimewatch for businesses’ interactive computer systems that works with the county visitors authority – called police to say that Lokey was in the lobby.
Police arrived and arrested Lokey, then found out that Folly Beach police near Charleston had warrants for his arrest for similar crimes.
But the hotel clerk did even more – she identified the car that Lokey had arrived in.
The clerk told police Lokey had been dropped off by a man driving a white truck, and police found John Eric Cape in a truck that was in the parking lot. Cape refused to allow police to search the truck so officers had to get a search warrant, an incident report shows.
Armed with the warrant, police found illegal amphetamines in the truck, as well as a shaving bag filled with jewelry and hearing aids. Officers also found computer equipment and a printout of Jacksonville, Fla.-area hotels. Some of the jewelry was from recent Rock Hill break-ins, police said. Lokey had credit cards in his possession that had someone else’s name on them, police said in incident reports.
Detectives are still working on the case, Bollinger said.
“We are still working to place recovered items with burglaries in the city, and even the region,” Bollinger said. “This was good police work and great cooperation.”