Sept. 04--TRAVERSE CITY -- An open box in a Wal-Mart aisle started an evidence trail that led authorities to a Traverse City couple now accused of using children to help shoplift more than $1,500 from the store.
Grand Traverse County sheriff's Lt. Brian Giddis said a store loss prevention officer found an empty electronics box on Aug. 11 and turned to surveillance footage to find out what happened. He said the footage showed a man and woman -- later identified by authorities as Ernest Daughtry, 30, and Lindsey Daughtry, 28 -- steal that and other items.
"Most of the merchandise was concealed in the adult female's purse," Giddis said.
Authorities said two children, ages 9 and 11, roamed the aisles with the Daughtrys and "assisted" in the thefts.
Lindsey Daughtry's distinctive red purse proved to be a vital bit of evidence in a subsequent sheriff's department probe. The investigation led prosecutors to authorize charges this week against the Daughtrys for first-degree retail fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a child.
Giddis said the suspects remained unidentified until the Wal-Mart employee met with a Grand Traverse Mall security officer who recognized Ernest Daughtry. He said several deputies who saw the suspects in a photograph also identified them.
On Aug. 17, a sheriff's deputy stopped Lindsey Daughtry's vehicle.
"Not only did he recognize the female, but he recognized the same purse that was in the photo," Giddis said.
Authorities impounded the vehicle -- a Pontiac spray-painted white -- and found portable DVD players, DVDs and other suspected stolen items.
Deputies then searched the Daughtrys' Brook Drive home and other vehicle and found numerous items they believe were stolen from Wal-Mart and Meijer. Those included more DVDs, compact discs, dog food, water balloons, a book, sandals, and children's purses and wallets, Giddis said.
The searches also uncovered about 20 cans of stolen spray paint Lindsey Daughtry told deputies she and her husband used to paint their car so it'd be unrecognizable at Meijer, Giddis said.
The total value of 58 items stolen from Wal-Mart is $1,538.32, according to court documents.
Giddis said store footage also shows two children help the Daughtrys steal the items.
Lindsey Daughtry declined to comment. Ernest Daughtry is being held at Grand Traverse County's jail on a probation violation.
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