Crime

Belleville couple accused of shoplifting, then leaving kids in store as they ran from police

Violent and property crime stats for Illinois

According to data from the FBI, property and violent crimes continue to decrease in Illinois, though the violent crime's are still slightly higher than the national average.
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According to data from the FBI, property and violent crimes continue to decrease in Illinois, though the violent crime's are still slightly higher than the national average.

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.

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.
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