By MICHELLE FRIEDRICH
A couple believed to be responsible for snatching the purses of two elderly women shopping inside the Walmart Supercenter last week was arrested Sunday.
Jason A. Malone, 33, of Bulpitt, Ill., and Jill Durbin, 30, of Taylorville, Mo., were arrested at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Walmart Supercenter on suspicion of stealing.
Malone and Durbin are accused of stealing an 80-year-old woman's purse Saturday afternoon, as well as an earlier theft of a wallet on March 19.
At about 4:15 p.m. Saturday, a woman living in the 900 block of West Henry Street reported to Patrolman Kenny Carpenter that she discovered her purse missing from her shopping cart when she arrived at the checkout counter.
The woman, according to Carpenter's report, was shopping near the health and beauty department when she was distracted by a white female, who asked her where the Excedrin was located and was later identified as Durbin.
A Walmart asset protection associate reported to officers that the "entire event" had been recorded on the store's surveillance video.
Carpenter said the video showed Durbin allegedly approach the woman and "distract her away" from her shopping cart as the male suspect, identified as Malone, "walked past them and grabbed the purse from the shopping cart."
Based on the video surveillance images of the alleged suspects, as well as how the theft occurred, officers believed the pair allegedly was responsible for the theft of a wallet from a 60-year-old woman on March 19.
In the earlier theft, one of the alleged suspects distracted the woman, while the other attempted to grab the woman's purse off her shoulder. The woman reportedly resisted and the suspects allegedly stole her wallet.
Surveillance video caught the alleged pair leaving the store near the McDonald's entrance.
On Saturday, Carpenter said, Walmart personnel were able to provide officers with a description for the car the alleged suspects arrived and left in. It was described as a gray, four-door Mercury.
At about 3:40 p.m. Sunday, Patrolman Jamie Sample said in his report, the "suspect vehicle," a gray Mercury Sable, was found on the Walmart parking lot, and Durbin and Malone were taken into custody.
According to Patrolman Joey Woodruff's report, he transported Durbin to the police station for processing.
"While en route to the station, Durbin made the spontaneous statement: 'I didn't steal a purse. He (Malone) did. I thought it was my purse at first.'"
Woodruff said Malone, while in the male detention area at the station, also made the spontaneous statement of: "'I want to cooperate with you. She (Durbin) is lying; she knows the purse was stolen. The money is in her wallet.'"
Lt. David Sutton and Patrolman Steve McCane subsequently interviewed Malone, who was told of his rights.
Malone, McCane said in his report, told officers he and Durbin had been in a relationship for about six months and for the past couple of weeks they have been staying with a friend of his.
"He and Jill went to Walmart in Poplar Bluff on two different occasions," McCane said. "Both times they were there, Jill would pick out an elderly lady and distract her in casual conversation while he would steal their wallet."
After Malone allegedly stole the wallets, he reported he gave the money to Durbin as she walked outside, McCane said.
Malone also reported "Jill kept the money on both occasions, and the idea of stealing the wallets was hers," McCane said.
Malone, McCane said, reported he did not know how much money was in either purse as Durbin "kept it all."
According to Malone's statement, he and Durbin were arrested in Jackson, Tenn., on March 20 for allegedly shoplifting.
"They used some of the money they stole from the lady on (March 19) to post their bond," McCane said.
Durbin, who was told of her rights, was interviewed by Sutton and Carpenter.
Sutton's report said Durbin told officers she and Malone had been "together for around one year" and had been staying with Malone's friend at Naylor, Mo., for the past two weeks.
On March 19, Durbin told the officers she and Malone went to Walmart, where she spoke with a woman about foot cream.
Malone, Durbin alleges, stole the woman's purse, and she "did not know about the theft until they left the store.
"When they left the store, Malone bragged that it had been easy."
The purse, Sutton said, had been thrown in a trash can somewhere between Poplar Bluff and Jackson, Tenn.
Durbin provided a similar account as to their arrest in Jackson, Tenn., indicating they used $700 from the alleged theft to bond out.
The remaining money, she told officers, was spent on miscellaneous purchases.
On Saturday, Sutton said, Durbin reported returning to Walmart with Malone and his friend.
"Durbin and (the friend) knew that Malone planned to steal another purse," Sutton said. "Malone told Durbin to distract the woman by talking to her, and he would take the purse," which is what allegedly occurred.
Sutton said some of the cash from the second alleged theft was in Durbin's purse, which was found inside their vehicle, as were some jewelry items from that purse.
Sutton said the purse had been discarded behind the building.
Officers, he said, found jewelry, identified by Malone, as being property allegedly stolen by Dubrin in an unrelated theft at Walmart.