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A couple has been accused of using their children to shoplift and abandoning them, including an infant, in the store when police tried to apprehend them.
Charnee A. Thomas, 21, of Cahokia, and Joe N. Byrum Jr., 23, of Belleville, both were charged with retail theft over $300 on June 17, St. Clair County court records state. In addition to the theft charge, Thomas faces one count of obstructing identification and Byrum faces one count of child endangerment.
On June 14, Thomas and Byrum let their three older children roam around J.C. Penney in the St. Clair Square mall as a distraction while they shoplifted, Officer Tim Mueller with the Fairview Heights Police Department said Monday. In total, the couple attempted to steal over $1,000 worth of merchandise from the store, including children’s clothing, shoes and a baby blanket.
When police attempted to apprehend Thomas and Byrum, the couple ran, leaving the kids inside J.C. Penney by themselves, Mueller said. They were taken into custody the same day and taken to St. Clair County Jail. Neither was still in custody as of Monday.
According to Mueller, the children were taken in by a relative.