Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Jonesboro police Investigator Phillip Perry inspects the items taken from a Henry County storage unit Thursday. Most of the items are believed to belong to Claudia Turner.
JONESBORO — Claudia Turner had mixed reaction to the news Thursday that Jonesboro police found about 90 percent of items stolen from her home in more than 15 burglaries since October.
"Have you ever heard of someone's home being broken into 15 times?" she said. "I don't know what in the world people are thinking, especially to take the things they did."
Police Chief Franklin Allen had a similar response.
"It's good because most of these items are Mrs. Turner's," he said. "It's bad because the burglaries have been occurring for months and we just weren't able to develop leads or suspects."
All that changed with the discovery of property inside a Henry County storage unit allegedly rented to Scott Thomas Vincent. According to Georgia Department of Corrections records, Vincent spent much of the last nine years in prison and is on parole after convictions for burglary and theft in Clayton, Fayette and Lamar counties.
Vincent, 39, of Robin Lane in McDonough, has been charged with probation violation, possession of drugs, criminal trespass and theft by taking and is being held without bond in the Clayton County Jail. Allen said with the discovery of the items from Turner's home, Vincent faces burglary charges.
Jonesboro police were assisted in the recovery by Henry County police Detective Isaiah Harmon, who helped execute the search warrant Thursday. Jonesboro police Investigator Phillip Perry, Lt. Anthony Lumpkin, Sgt. Michael Foster, Sgt. Jeff Oliver and lead Investigator Brad Pair spent hours Thursday unloading the unit and packing the items into vans, cars, trucks and trailers to return to Jonesboro for sorting.
Allen said Vincent could also face theft by receiving stolen property charges in Henry.
Allen and Turner are baffled at why certain items were taken.
"A lot of this stuff has absolutely no value to anyone except the Turner family," he said. "There are certificates, degrees, diplomas that have absolutely no street value."
Among the items recovered Thursday was a certificate from the U.S. Department of War issued in 1917 to Turner's father-in-law, Roderick Greer Turner. Turner served in the U.S. Army's engineering services as a second lieutenant during World War I. Another item found among belongings Vincent allegedly left behind at a girlfriend's house after a break-up was Claudia Turner's husband's high school graduation certificate and photo from 1938.
The two married in 1946 and lived briefly in the Turner family home in Jonesboro before moving to Atlanta, then New Orleans and back to Atlanta. When her mother-in-law was ailing, Claudia Turner and her husband returned to the home to care for her.
"I've lived in the house off and on now for about 30 years," she said.
Turner studied psychology at the University of California but had a marked interest in journalism. She wrote for the college paper and then made a career of news reporting at several newspapers. It was harder back then for a married woman with children to advance professionally.
"I studied psychology but you really needed a master's and Ph.D to get anywhere in that field and I had small children at home," she said. "But I could do a lot of newspaper work from home. I was the only reporter allowed to turn in something in long hand and have a secretary type it up."
She eventually wrote for papers in Georgia and Arizona, becoming a society news editor in Atlanta. Her news-gathering instincts returned when the burglaries started happening.
"I wanted the addresses of the guys they thought were breaking in," she said. "I was going to hire a private investigator to follow them and find out if they were fencing my stuff because so much was missing."
Now in her 90s, Claudia Turner spends part of the year in Texas with one of her five children. The burglaries have devastated her.
"What they didn't take with them, they destroyed," said Turner. "They ground glass into my Persian rugs. I feel terribly violated, dirty and unclean. I mean, someone has gone through my stuff."
With all the turmoil, Turner said she is ready to sell, pack up and move to Texas permanently. She first would like to see all her property returned.
"The Jonesboro police are working really hard to find more of my stuff," she said. "They've been wonderful. But I have a lot of very fine china, Lenox patterns, very expensive, and china I inherited from Germany. I've lost a tremendous amount of things and they've ruined a lot of my antiques."
Allen said he is happy to bring some closure for Turner.
"I'm extremely happy to be able to recover most of her stolen property," he said. "A lot of this stuff is very historic and we're tickled to be able to return them to her family."
Turner was able to readily identify some items Thursday at the storage unit. One piece of property, however, she told police was definitely not hers.
"That Halloween skeleton is not mine," she said. "I wish it was, I've never seen anything like it before. But I don't understand why a robber would steal a Halloween costume? Why would someone risk their lives or prison for a Halloween costume?"