WOOD RIVER — An East Alton teenager was arrested Wednesday in connection with an in-home burglary at a Wood River residence followed by an attempted retail theft while armed at the Wood River Walmart.
The 17-year-old male was thought to be possibly armed with a knife when police found a cut screen where the suspect entered the home. While residents and their children were sleeping, the suspect went through the home looking for cash and items to steal. The suspect was thought to go through nightstands just inches from the occupants’ heads. Several more knives were taken from the home during the robbery.
“The suspect was seen on video cashing in coins that were taken from the home at the East Alton Shop n’ Save,” Wood River Deputy Chief Dan Bunt said. “While we were trying to confirm the individual’s identity on the Shop n’ Save video, he was detained at Wood River Walmart by their in-house security team while armed with a knife that was stolen from the home he burglarized the night before. He was wearing the same shoes and most of the same clothing that he wore in the video.”
Authorities had the suspect in custody just hours after the home invasion, which will hopefully help local residents feel safer in light of the brazen act. No injuries occurred during the home invasion or during the detainment by Walmart security. Security officers detained the suspect until Wood River police officers arrived.
“This robbery was taken to a whole new level,” Bunt said. “We take all incidents that involve robberies or burglaries seriously, but this one was quite nervy with the residents being at home and getting that close to them. It definitely could have gone a whole different direction had the residents woken up while he was in the house like that.”
Investigators say the suspect, who is well-known to police through his previous history, worked alone in both the home invasion and attempted Walmart theft.
“We interviewed a known friend of the suspect just this morning,” Bunt said. “We feel confident at this time in saying he (the suspect) was alone during these incidents. The friend offered to take a polygraph and was not seen on any of the videos that we are currently reviewing.”
The suspect will be tried as a juvenile.
“The law was changed a few years ago, otherwise he’d be charged as an adult in this situation,” Bunt said. “I believe a juvenile would have to commit a Class X felony, such as murder, to be charged as an adult now.”
The investigation is continuing as new information is coming in to the Wood River Police Department. Anyone with more information is asked to contact police at (618) 251-3113.