Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The One About the Robbery

I've waited to post about this because the ending is taking a while to develop. But it's a good story so if you have time, please read to the end and make the writing of this post not in vain. 

On December 16, 2010, I was working at the Chapel Hill courthouse. It was a Thursday, and like every Thursday, I was in court for the Department of Social Services cases. I sit in the jury box and take notes as my attorney tries the cases for the day. This particular day ended around 3:30 and another court started right after ours. This does not typically happen but because it was December and our district was short on court days due to the various holidays, they had to squeeze court time in wherever they could find it. The court that followed ours was CRC - Community Resource Court. It's kind of a watered down criminal court. It's criminal court for repeat offenders that also have diagnosed mental health issues.

After court on this particular Thursday, I collected my things as always and because I'd been sitting there since 11:00 [we had a 2 hour delay due to the "adverse weather"], my first priority was to use the bathroom. And because I consider myself "court personnel" I use the "court personnel only" bathrooms at the back of the building near the entrance to the judges' chambers. I threw my things- coat, purse, computer bag- on the chair outside the bathroom and a few minutes later, regathered my things and went out to the parking deck behind the courthouse. I got in the car and reached in my purse to get my wallet to pay for my parking. No wallet. After searching my purse about 20 times and all through my car, the clarity hit me hard that the only thing that could have happened was it was stolen out of my purse while I was in the bathroom.

And then I started to cry. I cry often and for a surprising number of reasons. This cry was a frustrated and "no way is this happening" kind of cry. I panicked a little when I realized I couldn't get out of the parking deck and was starving [and pregnant] and REALLY wanted to eat something and was about to call my boss for some money or at least Jericho to tell him what happened. But instead I regrouped and decided to investigate. First, some geographical information about where I am: the Chapel Hill courthouse is at a main thoroughfare on Franklin Street, right across from UNC campus. The main entrance to the courthouse is in the front, naturally, but I use the one in the back, again because I'm "court personnel" and that door is a locked, coded door. So the back entrance is not a high traffic area [also why I didn't think it a big deal to leave my stuff outside the bathroom].

I remembered that when I left the courthouse initially that there were a few people standing out back, and thought, maybe, just maybe those could be the people who stole my wallet since they appeared to have been the only other people to have recently left the courthouse by the back door. I went back to where they were and, of course, they were gone. I went back inside to look around [remember there is a criminal court going on]. I didn't see them so I told Deputy Charlie what I suspected and went out to Franklin Street to look around. I'm a little frantic at this point but relatively under control. Once on Franklin Street, I see an African American couple and two young children. I'm looking at them and going over and over through my memory if these could be the people that I saw behind the courthouse. I notice that they had a shopping bag with them  and are close to a number of small shops and convenience stores. Before I go hollering and flailing my arms at these people about stealing my wallet, I went into the stores to verify that they'd been there. First store, gave a description of suspected perps, asked if they'd paid with a credit card [since I knew I didn't have any cash in my wallet], the cashier said no, they hadn't been in there. Second store, same questions, and the lady said, "yes". I asked to see the credit card receipt. She showed it to me and at the bottom of the receipt under a signature that was most definitely not mine, was the printed name "C Kelley Belcher".

And then I turned green, doubled in size and broke down the door as I stormed out. No other time in my life have I felt the rage and determination and hysteria as I did at that moment. I exclaimed to the cashier woman, "That's me! Those people stole my credit cards!" In hindsight, I should have added, "Why didn't you check their flippin ID!?!?!" I ran out of the store and back down Franklin Street to where I last saw the piece-o-scum-people. They were gone. By now, I'm crying again. Not sad, weepy tears, but tears like I may actually inflict physical harm if I find these people. I went back to the courthouse and told Deputy Charlie what I'd discovered. He said they had just been in the courtroom for a hearing but were gone now. I started to run up and down Franklin Street [in my work heels, no less], in and out of all the stores and restaurants within two blocks, asking for help and giving these people's description. I'm crying and running and alternating muttering between threats and prayers. If any of you were on Franklin Street around this time and saw me, I hope this explains a lot. I'm sure I was a sight. I passed a couple of pan-handlers during my tirade and heard one say to the other, "Whoa, that girl is MAD."

After about 20-30 minutes of this, I knew they were gone. Luckily, there is a branch of my bank on that same block. I righted myself, put out the flames that were erupting from the sides of my face, and went into the bank. I quickly told the smiley counter guy that I needed to close my accounts because someone stole my wallet. He then called over one of the manager-type people. She came around the counter, put her arm around me and asked what happened. Apparently I looked like I needed a hug. Imagine that. I sob again and blabber to her the story. She sets me in an office with another manager-type person to take care of the logistics. Over an hour, and within less than an hour of my wallet being stolen, the fraudulent transactions were identified and canceled [a whopping $50 worth], all of my accounts were closed, the account and cards were flagged, and I got all new accounts. I still didn't have any money so I asked the bank man if I'm allowed to withdraw some cash before everything is closed. Sure! How much? *Sniff* I just need to get out of the *sniff* parking deck and *sniff* eat some dinner. *sniff* So like twenty dollars? *sniff* P-p-please? *Sniff*

I was so pathetic I laugh so hard every time I've had to retell this story. 

In all this time, I still hadn't called Jericho. First I make a phone call to address my basketball practice for that night that I'm most definitely not going to make it to coach my girls. I balled during that retelling about why I couldn't make it so I decided I still needed to calm down. I had a 30 minute drive home and Harry Potter on CD to mellow me out. And it worked. I got home and calmly retold the whole thing to Jericho, who stood wide-eyed the entire time. He gave me a hug and told me how proud he was that I'd acted so quickly in figuring out what happened and already addressed all the banking stuff. And he even picked up some dinner and rubbed my feet [but only after I played the "I was robbed today!!!" card a couple times]. 

I'm sorry folks, but the story does not end there. The next morning I got to work and told my boss about the exciting events that transpired after court the day before. I love my boss for a number of reasons. This was definitely one of them. All during the story, she was PISSED. She was swearing about this woman and how we were going to "get her!" and she was "going to pay!". She spent most of the morning on the phone with admins and judges at the courthouse figuring out who the woman was. In short, we determined that she'd been a defendant on the docket for CRC and that she was there with her two little kids and the only one to have her kids with her which means she was called first and the ONLY one dismissed promptly after her case, right about the time that I would have been hanging out in the bathroom. We found out her name and her next court date. She made an extremely idiotic choice in who she robbed that day.

I talked to the attorney in my office who handles criminal matters and she told me to file a police report. She told me what to do and by the end of the day, there was an investigator assigned to the case. Fast forward to the present. I hadn't heard anything in two months so I emailed the investigator last week to check in. Apparently my suspect has been tough to track down but that she would be in court later that week [Thursday] so the cop was going to go have a chat with her then. The investigator called me yesterday to let me know how it went. The suspect and her boyfriend/baby-daddy both denied knowing anything about the incident and they clearly "knew all the right answers" and how to talk to cops. All that can be done now is for the investigator to pull everything she has together and give it to a D.A. and they'll decide if they want to move any further. But as for now, nothing's really happening.

It'd be nice if this story had a more dramatic ending. It'd be nice if I could have vengeance and that wretched woman would pay for stealing from me. Luckily I believe in justice from more places than the court system. I don't believe in karma, so to speak, but I do believe that no act like this goes without consequences. I may not ever see the consequences that befall this woman, but I know she'll get them one day. Just the fact that she has a life that requires probation and monthly court appearances goes to show that prosperity and happiness don't come to those that put themselves above rules and make choices regardless of the harm it brings to others. And who stick their grubby paws in my fabulous Jessica Simpson purse.

I did learn some precious life lessons from this experience:
~ It's truly sad that we live in a world where people think they deserve someone else's property more than the rightful owner. But to know that people are stealing in front of their children, telling them that this is an acceptable way to live one's life makes me angrier than I can even put into words.
~ Clearly our court systems need some help if a defendant walks out of a criminal hearing and within 5 minutes has lifted someone's wallet and committed credit card fraud.
~ I will never say a negative thing about my bank ever again. They handled the situation better than I could have imagined.
~ Even the people at DMV are nicer once they find out you're there because your wallet was stolen.
~ I no longer have to wonder just how fast I can run in heels if the need arises.

Let's hope my phone call yesterday with the investigator wasn't the last and that the perp gets what's coming to her. I know I should be praying for her and especially those two kids. I know I should forgive her. But I'm not quite there yet. I'm not nearly as upset as I was 2 months ago but, as an author I read recently said, "Forgiveness is about getting to the point where you've stopped swinging your fists." And I'm not quite there yet. Not quite...


  1. Wow. I'm impressed with your quick thinking skills. I cried when someone broke into my car. It's a serious violation of your "personal space". I get it.
    And I like the Friends reference with your title.

  2. Who steals at a courthouse!!! Why are people so stupid, and so rude. I cry at everything. I would have been a mess. I cried when someone through a pumpkin at our door a few years ago. That was enough invasion of my personal space to get to me. You obviously haven't lost any of your spunk, the competitive Kelley who doesn't give up. Good job ;)

  3. If there is one thing that upsets me more about my job it is this kind of story exactly. Day in and day out I have to deal with these kinds of low-lifes who have no concern for other people or what is right and decent in the world. Then they are the first ones to yell and scream about how unjust the world is and how we owe them...oooo it just boils my blood. You rock though and I am glad that they didn't get more from you.

  4. I hope they get her! Did the store have a camera? I clearly watch to many cop shows...

  5. Holy crazy. I am impressed at your clear-headedness and diligence. And how stupid to steal in a court house after your hearing. Wow...she deserves a Darwin award of some sort.

  6. I'm with Lara. I can't imagine going into those stores and knowing to go into the bank and I worked at a bank! All I have to say is YOU GO GIRL! I love your last lesson learned ;)

  7. What amazes me is 1- the store didn't have them on camera. and 2- that not only did she steal your wallet from the court house *which let's face it, is as good a place as any considering the number of criminals there on any given day* but that she wasted NO TIME at all spending what wasn't hers to spend. I would think that someone who just stole a wallet would at least hop in a cab/car and get a ways away before going on a shopping spree. Good grief.

    It is a sad sad world we live in and it's bound to only get worse with time. My friend had things stolen from his car in the LDS church parking lot...by one of the youth no less. All we can do is raise our families to know right from wrong and teach them how to react in such situations...you my friend at least have the experience now to teach your child never to leave their personal belongings laying around... anywhere no matter how safe it might seem. Truly sad that we must think the worst of everyone before giving them a chance.

    By the way, I'm in awe of your awesomeness there, I don't think I'd have had my wits about me enough to go running from store to store to track this person down...very impressive.

  8. Man, what a great pregnancy story. Nice.


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