STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BERTRAM — Authorities used surveillance video and more than 100 social media tips to track down a couple accused of taking donated items from the local library thrift store to fund their methamphetamine habit, according to the Bertram Police Department.
On May 4, police charged 30-year-old Robert “Robbie” Wayne Hicks III of Bertram and 37-year-old Kristy Broadway of Bertram with theft connected to a string of incidents in which suspects cleared donated items from the front stoop of the Bertram Library Thrift Store, 140 S. Gabriel.
Proceeds from the sale of those items support the Joann Cole Mitte Memorial Library in Bertram.
The thefts, which thrift store officials said occurred over the course of a year, were caught in surveillance video and cellphone images as the suspects whisked away donated items into vehicles, according to the police report.
On May 1, the case unfolded when authorities, acting on tips and armed with several images, visited the suspects’ home in the 500 block of Texas 29 West.
The report stated officers found methamphetamine and took the couple into custody at that time.
Three days later, police served theft warrants on the couple while they were in the Burnet County Jail on the drug-related charges.
“They admitted they took items more than 12 times but claimed they were giving it away to the needy,” Bertram Police Chief J.J. Wilson said. “They probably sold it to resale shops
“I think they were selling it for drugs,” he added.
At the residence, investigators recovered a variety of items.
“They were stealing electronics, baby clothes, and anything of value: tools, books, DVDs. We recovered 200 DVDs,” Wilson said. “They had stuff stored in the barn and everywhere.”
Initially, the chief had posted images to the agency’s social media page to try to track down the couple.
He said he received community support but also some criticism from the public who believed police were being “harsh” to go after what they perceived as a couple “in need.”
“This was not just sidewalk theft. We have one image where (the female suspect) was climbing into the donation bin,” Wilson said. “She claimed she gave some of it to the elderly at the (Bertram) nursing home. I checked, and she did not.”
Both face charges of one count each of class A misdemeanor theft and possession of a controlled substance, a state jail felony, which could result in up to two years in jail with a conviction.
Investigators said another arrest is possible of an individual who met the suspects and loaded furniture into a pickup truck.