Note: This story was updated at 5:05 p.m.
The robbery, attempted robbery, and theft charges filed against an Oliver Springs man after an alleged robbery at Family Dollar in July have been sent to a grand jury.
Steven Scruggs, 31, had a preliminary hearing in Anderson County General Sessions Court, Division II, in Oak Ridge on Tuesday, August 23. His two co-defendants, also Oliver Springs residents, were in court as well. One pleaded guilty to one charge, and another waived one to a grand jury.
Anderson County General Sessions Court Judge Roger Miller found probable cause to send the robbery, attempted robbery, and theft charges filed against Scruggs to the grand jury after hearing testimony from employee Kimberly Armes, who was working at the store the evening of July 20, when the alleged robbery occurred, and from Oliver Springs Police Department Lieutenant David Laxton, who investigated it. All three charges are felony charges.
A false imprisonment charge that had also been filed against Scruggs was dismissed.
The robbery was reported at about 10:04 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, at the Family Dollar store, which is at 51 Edmonds Drive in Oliver Springs.
When they arrived, Sergeant Kevin Armes and Patrolman Nathaniel Nelson of the Oliver Springs Police Department were told that, after closing and while the cashiers were counting money, a masked man came from the back of the store and ordered two employees to the floor and demanded all the money and cell phones, a July 21 OSPD press release said.
“He came around the corner and then took all the money,” Armes testified in court last week.
After receiving all the cash from the register and safe, the man—who was described as white and wearing dark clothing and a bandana in arrest warrants—reportedly left the store through the back, the release said.
“We stayed down until he left,” Armes said.
He only got the cell phone of one employee, Rachael Weir, who is a co-defendant, according to arrest warrants filed in the case. Armes identified Weir as an assistant manager.
After he arrived, Laxton was able to view all the security footage from the store, the press release said. He learned that $1,683 was missing and so was Weir’s cell phone.
“After watching the video and speaking with the two employees, Lieutenant Laxton was able to identify several inconsistencies between employee Rachael Weir’s statement and the video,” the release said. “Ms. Weir was transported to the Oliver Springs Police Department to be interviewed. During the interview, Lieutenant Laxton was able to learn that the male subject involved was Steven Scruggs and his address.”
According to the warrants, Weir told Laxton she had talked to Scruggs about robbing the store, how to do it, and the times that the money would be out for deposit at the end of her shift.
“Rachael Weir stated she did leave the rear fire door unlocked and alarm off for Steven Scruggs to enter and rob the Family Dollar,” Laxton wrote in the warrants.
Weir said Scruggs had attempted the robbery the previous Monday, July 18, but was not successful because the front door was locked.
For helping in the robbery, Scruggs was going to pay Weir’s rent so that it was current, or about $381, according to the warrants.
Laxton said he learned that Scruggs was at his girlfriend’s second-floor apartment on Midway Drive. Laxton, Armes, and Nelson—along with members of the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, and Oak Ridge Police Department—went to the home, where they found Scruggs and Patricia Rhea, 35, the press release said.
“During a search of the residence, officers located the mask used during the robbery and money taken,” the release said.
Rhea gave a statement that she knew about Scruggs conspiring with Weir to rob the Family Dollar and that he had even tried it on the previous Monday, the warrants said.
Laxton said Rhea gave officers permission to search her apartment. He said they located the bandana matching the one worn by the suspect in the video—it was on the porch—and a package of money wrapped in duct tape containing $1,385 behind a filter on the central air-conditioning unit.
“Two sets of money was banded by Regions Bank and then four sets of $5 bills were banded by paper clips in $100 sets, being the normal practice by Family Dollar,” Laxton said.
Officers found a roll of duct tape in the master bedroom, the warrants said.
“When Patricia Rhea was asked about it, she stated Steven Scruggs had to have gotten the duct tape off the front porch and wrapped up the money and dropped the tape in the bedroom,” Laxton said in the warrants.
“During the investigation, it was learned that Mr. Scruggs also attempted the robbery on Monday, July 18,” the OSPD press release said. “After viewing the video from that day, Lieutenant Laxton was able to locate and view the attempt, and Mr. Scruggs was charged with attempted robbery.”
In a video cited by Laxton, a man identified as Steven Scruggs was seen approaching the front door of the store, walking on, then coming back with a mask on and attempting to enter the Family Dollar, the warrants said. But the door was locked, so the man took off the mask and fled, the warrants said.
Authorities described the evidence as strong circumstantial evidence, with clothing and money found close to the defendant.
“I don’t think it takes too much to put 2+2 together,” Miller said, before announcing that he had found probable cause to send the robbery, attempted robbery, and theft of between $1,000 and $9,999 to the grand jury.
But public defender Nancy Meyer said there is no evidence that the home where the money was found is Scruggs’ residence.
“There’s nothing to connect Mr. Scruggs to this case,” Meyer said.
She said there was also no evidence that the alleged attempted robbery on July 18 was an attempted robbery, as opposed to an attempted burglary.
Meyer raised several questions about the case, including that Armes and Laxton offered different descriptions for the bandana and clothing worn by the robbery suspect. Armes said he was wearing a green long-sleeve shirt and black cargo pants. There were no designs on the bandana, she said.
But Laxton said the bandana was blue with white dots on it—like a normal bandana, he said—and the suspect was wearing a dark-colored long-sleeve shirt and real stiff blue jeans.
Rhea pleaded guilty to being an attempted accessory after the fact. That charge was reduced from criminal responsibility for facilitation of a felony as part of her plea.
She was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days on supervised probation, with a credit of 33 days. Rhea also must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment, follow recommendations, and avoid contact with Family Dollar, her co-defendants, witnesses, and other property.
In consideration of her plea, the Anderson County District Attorney General’s Office will not prosecute Rhea for criminal conspiracy.
Weir waived a criminal conspiracy charge to the grand jury. The state will not prosecute her for criminal responsibility for facilitation of a felony.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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