Burglars tunnel through North Augusta strip mall, steal pocket change

North Augusta officers are searching for one or more burglars after multiple businesses were hit late Thursday night. (WRDW-TV)

North Augusta officers are searching for one or more burglars after multiple businesses were hit late Thursday night. (WRDW-TV)

News 12 First at Five / Friday, Feb. 22, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- At the back of Merle Norman in North Augusta, there's still a crime scene.

Worker Bethany Mock has never seen anything like it.

"The back room was pretty well destroyed, and there was a hole in the wall," Mock said.

Sometime late Thursday night or early Friday morning, a burglar or burglars broke in by smashing holes in the walls of adjacent businesses to get to Merle Norman, which sells cosmetics and jewelry.

"So I come in about 8:30, and when I come in the front door, I hear the police officers yelling, telling me to stay where I am and not to move," she said.

North Augusta Department of Public Safety officers say the chain of break-ins actually began at a closed-down phone store next door. The burglars couldn't smash through a concrete wall there, so they went down to a nearby Chinese restaurant, the China Chinese Restaurant. They pried open the door and smashed the first hole there. They then climbed through the hole, bringing them into a neighboring H&R Block. There, they smashed another hole in the adjacent wall and entered Merle Norman next door.

"They knocked a lot of things off our shelves and just kind of spitefully destroyed it back there," Mock said.

Mock can laugh. The store itself was untouched. Only the back room was ransacked. Computers weren't stolen in Merle Norman or in H&R Block, either.

Officers say they only took about $7 of change at the cosmetics store. The owner of the restaurant said only a dollar bill was taken there.

"We were very fortunate that nothing else was messed up and that no one was here," Mock said. "Because, I mean, they could have very easily done a lot more damage than what they did."

Lt. Tim Thornton with North Augusta says they currently have no leads, but they're processing some surveillance video. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the NADPS at (803) 441-4320.

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