By JOSH NEWTON
Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies say a pair of area residents who broke into four businesses Wednesday morning got away with only $3, and their efforts quickly earned them a trip to jail.
Robert Lee Finch, 25, and Justina Bird, 23, both of Tahlequah, were booked into the Cherokee County Detention Center on four counts of burglary and vandalism, along with a charge of possessing a burglary tool. Finch is being held on a $25,000 bond, and Bird on a $12,000 bond.
Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Sparks responded Wednesday at about 2:14 a.m. when Speedy’s was burglarized. Sparks received the call while he was north on State Highway 10.
As Sparks started toward Speedy’s, Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Moore arrived at the business near Welling Road and State Highway 51.
As Sparks passed S.H. 10 and Steeley Hollow Road, he met an older-model, dark-colored Camaro with a light top traveling north on the road. Sparks continued to Speedy’s and deputies were soon notified of an alarm at Eagle Bluff Resort on S.H. 10. Moore responded to the river and Sparks stayed at Speedy’s to view the surveillance footage of the burglary.
“On the tape at Speedy’s, it showed what appeared to be a tall, slender, white male wearing gray sweat pants, black gloves, black tennis shoes and a gray jacket with two large, horizontal gray stripes and a black or dark T-shirt, which the subject was using as a mask over his nose and face,” Sparks said.
While Moore was at Eagle Bluff, Sparks was dispatched to another call, but soon learned the alarm at Davis Country Store, in the Tailholt area, was sounding. Sparks started that direction and received word that a fourth business – Caney Ridge Store on State Highway 100 – had been burglarized.
“While en route, I passed the same dark-colored Camaro with the light top. The same car in the area of two burglaries seemed odd, so I turned around on the vehicle and caught up to it,” said Sparks.
Bird was driving the vehicle, Sparks said in his report of the incident, and Finch was in the passenger seat.
“[Finch] was wearing the same clothes as the subject on Speedy’s video,” said Sparks. “[He] had glass all over him and in his coat, shoes and pants.”
Finch and Bird were both arrested, and a follow-up investigation from each business tied the suspects to the burglaries, according to Sparks.
Deputies believe the pair broke into the businesses looking for cash, but they got away with only $3, Sparks said. Three one-dollar bills were found in the cup holder of the Camaro when Bird and Finch were stopped.
Finch has an extensive history in Cherokee County District Court, including numerous charges of second-degree burglary; along with charges of larceny of an automobile, knowingly concealing stolen property, unlawful possession of a controlled drug with intent to distribute, possession of contraband by an inmate, obstructing an officer, and possession of burglary tools.
One of his recent arrests was last December, when he was in a vehicle with Brandon Hembree, who led authorities on a pursuit and later crashed on an icy road.
Finch was also arrested in 2009 and accused of participating in a burglary ring that involved thefts of two NSU maintenance trucks, and the burglary of Farmers Co-op in Tahlequah. That investigation also focused on a series of rural business burglaries.
Court records show Bird has never been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in Cherokee County District Court.