MILTON, Fla. (WALA) - UPDATE: Friday, September 21, 2012 - Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Deputies say Rebecca Jean Smith has is in custody in the Walton County Jail in Monroe, Georgia.
August 17, 2012 - The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office said a 77-year-old woman is the latest victim of a suspected purse thief. Deputies said the suspect is stealing the women's purses and then using their credit cards.
Willa Gray has lived on Wilmar Avenue in Milton for 36 years and considers her home a safe place.
But on August 6, Santa Rosa County deputies said a woman suspected of stealing purses preyed on not only Gray's trusting nature, but the fact that she has problems with her hearing. The suspect allegedly walked into her home uninvited and snatched Gray's purse.
"I'm not sure what you feel," Gray said. "You feel helpless, you feel scared, worried. And as of yet, I haven't been mad but I'm working on it."
Gray said she learned of the theft from calls from her credit card company. Someone found her purse in the dumpster at Target, where this photo of the suspect was snapped.
Deputies said the suspect- identified in one report as "Nancy"- actually made contact with her victims a couple times at their home. Once inside the residence, she'd make up a story like she lost her puppy and needs help finding it. Then she'd distract her victim before allegedly stealing from them.
In one case, deputies said, she stole from a 91-year-old woman who is legally blind.
"I don't know why people pick on old people, because some day they're going to be old and they're going to know what it's like," Gray said. "And when you lose your mate, and you're alone, it's very, very hard."
Gray's husband Roy passed away last year. They had lived in the home worry-free for 35 years.
"He was a great husband and it has been absolutely awful without him. I miss him every day. And when this happened, I got mad at him because he wasn't here. And that's silly," Gray said. "People don't have any feelings for people anymore; nobody cares."
Deputies said the suspect has struck on at least four different days in Milton.
According to reports, the suspect will take any purse within view and run out the door. She then immediately uses the credit cards that are inside at a local convenience store or retail business.
Deputies describe the suspect as 5'4" to 5'6", 23 to 35 years old, 130 to 160 pounds, and has an unknown tattoo on her right ankle
The suspect's vehicle is described as a late model Dodge Dakota, two door truck with toolbox on the back.
The occasions and locations are listed below.
- Sunday, July 29- 6700 North Ave. (Milton Police)
- Monday, August 6 - 6400 Wilmar Ave.
- Friday, August 10 - 5600 Meadowlark Lane
- Saturday, August 11 - 4500 Water St.
The Sheriff's Office asks all citizens to be aware of this tactic, and to spread the word to others; especially elderly females. Anyone with information concerning the suspect's identity is asked to contact the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office at 983- 1100, or Santa Rosa Crime Stoppers at 437-STOP (7867).
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