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Agencies join forces to solve sweepstakes break-ins

Posted on November 18, 2021

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Anthony Batts, top left, is shown beside Demetric Ward. In the bottom row are Malik Spells, left, and Tyrone Batts. The four Wilson men are accused in a string of business break-ins in Halfiax, Franklin and Wake counties.

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Anthony Batts, top left, is shown beside Demetric Ward. In the bottom row are Malik Spells, left, and Tyrone Batts. The four Wilson men are accused in a string of business break-ins in Halfiax, Franklin and Wake counties.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7818

WILSON — Four Wilson men face safecracking and breaking and entering charges in a string of internet sweepstakes business break-ins.

The early morning thefts in Halifax, Franklin and Wake counties spanned the month of October.

Authorities say investigators from the Wilson, Louisburg, Zebulon and Rocky Mount police departments and the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office noticed similarities in the crimes and compared notes.

Wilson Police Department spokesman Sgt. Eric Kearney said Wilson officers served arrest warrants on the four suspects, Malik Devonté Spells, Anthony Tyrone Batts Jr., Tyrone Monta Batts and Demetric J. Ward.

Spells, 26, is charged with three counts each of felony larceny, misdemeanor causing injury to real property, felony conspiracy to break and enter and felony possession of burglary tools; two counts each of felony breaking and entering and felony safecracking; and one count each of felony attempted breaking and entering in Halifax County and misdemeanor breaking into a coin/currency machine in Wake County.

He faces four additional charges in Franklin County, all felonies: breaking and entering, safecracking, larceny and habitual breaking and entering.

Anthony Batts, 26, his brother Tyrone Batts, 27, and Demetric J. Ward, 24, each face the same charges as Spells.

Authorities also charged Anthony Batts with felony larceny and misdemeanor obstructing justice in Edgecombe County.

FIFTH SUSPECT KILLED

Police say a fifth man participated in the break-ins.

Aaron Antron Anderson was brought to UNC Nash Health Care in Rocky Mount with Spells after both men were shot. Anderson died of his injuries, but Spells survived.

Rocky Mount police are investigating the shootings.

Detective Matt Brown of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office secured arrest warrants for Spells, the Batts brothers and Ward. He said the team of burglars was caught on camera breaking into one internet sweepstakes business and trying to break into a second business on Oct. 26 and 27.

Authorities apprehended the men shortly after the attempted break-in, Brown said.

Zebulon police Lt. Felix Killette said the suspects broke into the Mr. G’s Market convenience store and a sweepstakes center called the Skill Factory.

“They were able to able to crack a safe at one location, the Skill Factory, and actually removed a safe from Mr. G’s,” Killette said, “The safe that was removed was approximately 3 feet by 1 foot by 1 foot. It was small enough for four people to pick up and move.”

Police say thieves penetrated the safe’s door while it was inside the Skill Factory.

“They were able to take a significant amount of currency from both locations,” Killette said.

CAUGHT ON VIDEO

Surveillance cameras recorded the business break-ins.

“In our Skill Factory, they pried open a side wall of the building and then went through multiple walls in the building,” Killette said. “They would punch holes in the walls or create holes in the walls and crawl through. In the Mr. G’s case, they went through a boarded-up window that you really wouldn’t even know it was a window anymore, or door. It was behind a propane container.”

Police recognized the burglary tools.

“They had this pry bar. It was a red-handled pry bar that was used in both of our B&Es that we saw,” Killette said. “It was one of the first tools that appeared to be the same tool that they were using.”

Killette said investigators used surveillance video to identify suspects in the crimes.

“Their height, shape, the body movement, facial features, they were all consistent with our incidents as well,” he said. “In the video footage from Mr. G’s where they tried to all load this big safe into the trunk of four-door Toyota sedan, they were all struggling to get it in there.”

Killette said the recording shows burglars straining to move the heavy box.

“They ended up putting it in the back seat to get it away,” Killette said. “It looked like three of them ended up riding away in the front seat, but there was no seat belt ticket issued.”

WORKING TOGETHER

Killette said a team of investigators from several agencies in eastern and central North Carolina are part of an information-sharing entity called the Main Group.

“If someone has made an arrest, they will put that out there and name the individual and talk about the manner in which they commit crimes so maybe we can link them to other cases, and that is exactly how these cases were solved,” he said.

Killette gave Louisburg Police Department investigators “a big shout-out.”

“The town of Louisburg put out a bulletin through Main that basically had listed all of the suspects they had. It was very similar to our B&Es to businesses and sweepstakes,” Killette said. “That’s how we were able to connect those individuals with our breaking and enterings.”

The network is strictly for area detectives, as much of the information shared is law enforcement-sensitive material.

“We all watch those emails and when it came through, we saw ‘sweepstakes’ and one of the investigators immediately picked up on it that it was going to be our guys, our suspects,” Killette said. “They were using the same burglary tools for one. They were entering in through the sides of buildings and crawling on the floor. They all had the same movements. You could tell it was the same group, without a doubt, that was involved in the two different burglaries that we had.”

Zebulon’s first break-in was Oct. 6 at the Skill Factory. Twenty days later, the Mr. G’s convenience store was struck. Both crimes occurred around 3 a.m.
“Halifax County, Louisburg, Nash County, they all had instances that were consistent with the same group,” Killette said.

By the first week of November, police felt sure the same suspects were responsible for all the break-ins.

“B&Es and safecracking and that kind of thing is always going to be assigned to a detective,” Killette said. “They are going to start interviewing employees, interviewing witnesses, canvassing the area for any video footage, which obviously we had in both of these, then start trying to track down vehicle tag numbers.

“We search social media. We reach out to other agencies often, and in this case, the other agencies had the smoking gun that we needed to tie these guys into the larcenies and breaking and enterings that we had here. I hate to say it is just good old detective work, but that’s what it was.”

Killette said without that informational bulletin from Louisburg, the cases might not have been solved.

“So that simple tool helped solve our case — both cases,” he said.

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