News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013
CLEARWATER, S.C. (WRDW) -- Just last week, Ronnie Smith of Clearwater helped catch a man who's now facing a growing list of charges for burglaries and car break-ins in multiple states.
"He's kind of stupid, but yeah, I reckon you could call him brave," he said of the suspect, 42-year-old Brian Lowry of Augusta.
Smith couldn't sleep after his truck was broken into last Wednesday, so he was sipping coffee outside when he noticed a suspicious man walking through neighbors' yards.
"I asked him, 'Sir, can I help you?' And he's like, 'Uh, no! I don't need no help! I'm just walking,'" he said.
But Smith says something wasn't right. The man was bleeding and carrying a fistful of fishing poles. Smith says he found blood stains in the interior of his burglarized truck.
Smith says he asked Lowry if he broke into the truck.
"He just started walking real fast and looking behind him a lot," Smith said.
Smith trailed the suspicious man, who he says went into the woods behind the Wawa Express, which is next to the Rainbow Motel in Clearwater. Smith called 911.
Minutes later, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, the North Augusta Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina Highway Patrol were there. Lowry was arrested and booked into the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, where he's being held for the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
Inside Lowry's room at the motel, investigators say they found phones, GPS units and dozens of expensive fishing poles. Newly released evidence photos show mounds of stolen stuff. About a dozen fishing poles are stashed in the small bathroom. More lay on the bed, along with electronics and other items.
Now, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office is tasked with the difficult job of finding owners for all that stuff.
"The investigators basically broke down on some of the equipment and found the serial numbers, contacted manufacturers and distributors and traced it back. It's a lot of painstaking work for a lot of the investigators to get that through, but we've all worked together to get that done," said Sgt. Jason Feemster with the Sheriff's Office.
Across the river, at Broadway Bait and Tackle in Augusta, owner Larry Lesser is happy to have around 20 stolen fishing poles back.
"It's not just the monetary thing, it's, you know, psychological too," he said.
The Richmond County Sheriff's Office has charged Lowry with breaking into his tackle shop in last week. But interestingly, of all these poles recovered, not all of them were his.
"Other stores in the Southeast have been burglarized or shoplifted for those same rods," Lesser said.
He says a number of "Sage" rods were stolen. He is not a "Sage" dealer, but he was able to track the stolen rods. He says they were likely stolen across North Carolina and Georgia.
The Aiken County Sheriff's Office backs that up.
"We found property and victims as far as North Carolina and southern Georgia," Feemster said.
That news is a complete surprise to Smith, who's yet to get his stolen stuff back.
"He had a lot going on," he said. "He was going all over the place."
So far, Lowry has not been charged for those fishing pole thefts. However, he is already facing a number of charges in Aiken County, Richmond County and North Augusta (including two burglaries and two larcenies on East Shoreline Drive).
Feemster says Lowry is still a person of interest in other incidents.