Authorities investigating a downtown armed robbery think they caught a break last week when a Philadelphia man was arrested during a strikingly similar heist in North Carolina.
State College police say they have “significant evidence” linking the man charged with holding up a jewelry store in Cary, N.C., to the armed robbery of Kranich’s Jewelers last month.
According to officials in North Carolina, police arrested Rodger Kent Williams, 41, of Philadelphia, as he was fleeing a jewelry store in Cary following a robbery there. Two other suspects eluded police and remain at large.
Kranich’s Jewelers on East College Avenue in State College was robbed Jan. 9 by three masked men. The men entered the State College store at about 10:25 a.m., demanded the keys to the display case and ordered employees on the floor while taking an undisclosed amount of jewelry, as well as a ring, a watch and a wallet from an employee.
Police said they have recovered evidence that links the crimes.
“We have significant evidence to link him to our Kranich’s jewelry robbery, including property that was stolen, among other criminal evidence,” State College Lt. Keith Robb said Thursday.
In North Carolina, Williams was charged with one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. He faces up to 21 years in prison and is being held at the Wake County Public Safety Center, Cary officials said.
State College police have not yet filed charges, partly because they can’t be sure when Williams will be returned to Pennsylvania. He will first have to answer to the charges in North Carolina. The FBI could also be involved.
Local police said they worked with the FBI in Philadelphia to identify the suspect, and shared evidence through a special database with other police agencies.
Police in Cary said the three men robbed the jewelry store there Jan. 29. The men brandished weapons and emptied the contents of multiple display counters into duffel bags and exited using the business’s rear door.
Like in the State College robbery, the suspects asked an employee for the key to a display case.
In the North Carolina case, an employee on the upper floor of the building went undetected and was able to contact police while the suspects were still in the store, said Cary Police Lt. Steve Fonke.
Fonke said one officer was able to stop Williams as the three men tried to flee out a back door. The other two suspects got away in what was described as a small white SUV.
At the time of the State College robbery, police said they didn’t believe the suspects were local, or that they remained in the area after fleeing from Kranich’s. Officers confirmed there had been a string of similar jewelry store robberies across the state.
“I’ll say I wouldn’t be surprised if they were busy in other jurisdictions,” Fonke said Thursday.