Source: Sherman Publications

Thief caught
But armed robber still on the loose

by Phil Custodio

September 21, 2011

Shoppers at Dixie Highway and Maybee Road were victimized by criminals in two separate incidents, Sept. 13-14.

An armed robber stole money and cell phones, 7:58 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13. According to Oakland County Sheriff’s reports, he ordered employees and a customer at gunpoint to lie on the floor in the AT&T store in the 6600 block of Dixie.

Still at large, he is described as a black man in his 20s, wearing a black T-shirt, jeans, black-and-white Adidas shoes, fisherman’s type hat, and a white scarf across his face.

A suspect in an unrelated purse snatching the next day, 3:41 p.m., Sept. 14, in the Kroger parking lot, was tracked down and arrested.

Kristen Marie Hammer, 43, of Orion Township was arraigned on larceny from a person charge in 52-2 District Court, $75,000 bond.

According to deputies’ reports, Hammer was with a 47-year-old White Lake Township woman to go shopping when she noticed the victim, an 80-year-old Highland Township woman.

“Oh my God, look, she is not even paying attention,” Hammer reportedly said to the 47-year-old, with whom she was living and owed rent money.

They parked in a space across from the victim, who had been shopping with her husband, and Hammer got out and walked up to her.

Reportedly, she asked if the victim needed help and was turned down. She waited until the victim turned to put bags in the car, looked around, signaled to her driver, and grabbed the purse.

The victim yelled, "she stole my purse." A witness, a 43-year-old Detroit man, tried to block the robber's car with his vehicle but they got around him.

Another witness, a 48-year-old Waterford Township woman, followed the purse snatcher onto Dixie Highway, and called 911 with the license plate number.

Deputies checked to see who it was registered to and went to the White Lake Township home. The car was in the driveway and both women were home.

Hammer said she was home all day, but let a girl use her car, but she couldn't produce a name for deputies when asked.

The driver also said she was home all day, but Hammer was out and just returned.

Hammer was taken to Independence Township substation where she was Mirandized and filled out a statement.

She said she is addicted to crack cocaine, using heroin, and drinking heavily to get off the crack. She served time in prison from 2002-2004 on drug charges, and was homeless before moving in with the 47-year-old.

Based on the interview, a warrant the 47-year-old was placed into LEIN.

Witnesses and Kroger employees played a vital role in the investigation, said Det. William Baldwin, Independence Township substation.

"The public responded appropriately, and witnesses provided information that was valuable in this case," Baldwin said.

Kroger provided video of the incident, he said.

"Pay attention to your surroundings," he advised. "Don’t leave your purse in the cart. When approached by someone, speak loudly, asking them to leave. If you feel threatened, yell for help and call 911."

Deputies continue to work with witnesses as well as Michigan State Police and other agencies to find the armed-robbery suspect, Baldwin said.

The thief’s bag broke open as he ran, spilling cell phones onto the parking lot. He picked the phones up and put them into a shopping cart, but left some on the ground. Cell phones were picked up by employees of another store, however, contaminating them forensically.

Witnesses reported a black Mazda 6 with a New York license plate speeding away from the scene.

Also, investigators checked into an Inkster man as a person of interest, but it didn't pan out, Baldwin said.