A woman who had her purse snatched out of her vehicle while she was inside a convenience store getting her morning coffee said she has learned two valuable lessons from the ordeal. The first being to never leave a vehicle unlocked, even for a minute and the other is that the officers at the Conway Police Department take each case they work very seriously.

On Nov. 8, about 7:30 while Carolyn Dunn was on her way to work, she stopped to get her morning coffee at a convenience store on Skyline Drive for the commute to Little Rock. Knowing she would only be inside the store for less than five minutes, she did something she routinely did and left her purse on the seat of her unlocked vehicle while she ran inside. 

In the few minutes it took Dunn to pour her drink and pay for it, someone opened her vehicle and removed her purse. When she came back out to the vehicle, she noticed immediately the purse was missing and called the police. Officer Michael Bradford arrived within 15 minutes and began what would be a shift-long pursuit of the suspect.

While Bradford was speaking with Dunn about the theft, a representative from Dunn’s bank called to ask her about some irregular charges that had just been placed on her debit card. The suspect had already used Dunn’s card to make purchases and wiped out her bank account. Dunn said she was disheartened that all of that had taken place within 30-45 minutes of the purse being stolen.

"I couldn’t believe that whoever had taken the purse had already been able to wipe me out in such a short amount of time," she said. "It was a little disheartening, but it was great that my bank let me know that the transactions took place because the officer was able to find surveillance footage of the suspect from the store where she spent my money."

According to the police report from the incident, Bradford obtained video surveillance of the suspect and then attempted to track down a purchase that the suspect made with the card for some prepaid cell phone minutes. The company was able to provide a name and address for the owner of the phone and Bradford checked the information the in department’s database. He went to the address and spoke with a man and then asked if he could speak with the man’s girlfriend. The woman came to the door to speak with Bradford wearing the same clothes that were seen in the surveillance video.

The suspect was identified as Anita Rochelle Hornes, 32, who admitted to using Dunn’s debit card but denied having stolen the purse. She told Bradford that an unknown woman had given her the purse and that she didn’t know the woman’s name or any other information. 

Bradford asked Hornes the location of the purse and its contents and she told him the items were in a trash bin behind her apartment complex. She also turned over the items she had purchased with the debit card. The officers were able to retrieve the purse and several credit and gift cards in the trash bin. 

Hornes was transported to the Faulkner County Detention Center and charged with theft by receiving and fraudulent use of a credit card.

Dunn said she is grateful for Bradford and the other officers who helped make a bad situation a little more tolerable.

"Officer Bradford was awesome," Dunn said. "He had her (the suspect) in jail by the end of the day. He really went above and beyond to help me when I needed it and I’m very grateful."

Dunn said she is a reformed shopper since her ordeal and will never again leave her vehicle unlocked or her purse unattended.

"I should have known better than this, to leave my purse in the car but you can bet I’m not doing that anymore," she said. "This turned out a lot better than it could have, and I’ve learned my lesson."

Dunn’s bank has assured her that they will replace the funds stolen by Hornes.

La Tresha Woodruff, public information officer for the CPD, said the officers are aided by local businesses in cases like this one and they were fortunate the hard work paid off.

"Most businesses do whatever they can to help with an investigation, which helps our officers to be able to do their jobs more efficiently," she said. "Officer Bradford followed up on every lead available to him and was determined to bring a suspect into custody. While this crime may have been small compared to other, more serious crimes, it was a big deal to the victim and Officer Bradford recognized that. He utilized his training and handled the case with the same vigor he would a more serious case and in the end, it paid off."

(Candie Beck is a staff writer and can be reached at 505-1238 or at candie.beck@thecabin.net)