Citizens’ efforts assist with arrest

Bryce Higgins and Laurie Higgins
14-year-old Bryce Higgins, shown with his mom Laurie, played a role in solving a case involving the theft of a laser projector.

ANNA MARIA – The computer skills of an Island teen and information circulated by some Island moms contributed to the arrest of 20-year-old Richard Parker on charges of petty theft.

Parker was arrested twice last week. The first arrest occurred mid-week due to his suspected involvement in the theft and sale of fishing equipment stolen from a Longboat Key condominium complex in November, which was then sold under false pretenses to a pawn shop in Manatee County. Parker’s court records list the Longboat Key charge dealing for dealing stolen property as a second degree felony.

While in custody on the Longboat Key charges, Parker was arrested a second time for his suspected involvement in a petty theft that occurred in Anna Maria in January.

Former Island worker Richard Parker was arrested last week on charges stemming from a petty theft that occurred in January. – Manatee County Sheriff’s Office

On Jan. 30, Jennifer Kaleta reported that a Star Shower laser projector had been stolen from her back yard. Surveillance video showed the projector was actually removed on Jan. 28 and it indicated the presence of a white 2003 Ford pickup that was later determined to be Parker’s.

That same night, Anna Maria resident Laurie Higgins had her cell phone, her purse and a backpack containing her son Bryce’s text books stolen from her car while it was parked in the driveway of her family’s home.

Both crimes were reported to Sgt. Russell Schnering and the Anna Maria division of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, and Kaleta’s surveillance video was provided to assist with the investigative efforts.

Using a computer program, Bryce Higgins, 14, converted the surveillance video into black and white still photographs that he was able to digitally enhance in terms clarity. The photos were then circulated throughout the community, posted on Facebook, displayed at the Anna Maria Island General Store and distributed to law enforcement agencies in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach as well. The photos eventually made their way to Det. Sgt. Roger Bourque at the Longboat Key Police Department.

“Sgt. Bourque called me and said, ‘I have a picture of your truck up there and I know whose it is;’ and that’s how we ran with it.” -Sgt. Russell Schnering, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office

Surveillance video helped identify the owner of this white Ford pickup truck that was later determined to be owned by a young man arrested on charges of petty theft.

On Friday, Schnering explained how Parker was arrested in connection with the crime that occurred at the Kaleta residence.

“Longboat Key had charges for dealing in stolen property. Sgt. Bourque called me and said ‘I have a picture of your truck up there and I know whose it is;’ and that’s how we ran with it,” Schnering said.

“When he became a suspect in one of our petty thefts up on the north end, we went ahead and arrested him on Longboat Key’s warrant. We interviewed him and he confessed to the theft he did in Anna Maria at the Kaleta residence, stealing the outside projector, which is petty theft,” Schnering said of Parker’s arrest.

“We did question this young man about the car burglaries that happened at the Higgins’ house and we didn’t get anything out of him, so we didn’t get him on those charges. We did pull some fingerprints from the car burglary and we’re waiting for those to come back,” Schnering said.

Parker lives in Bradenton. Prior to his recent arrests, he worked on the Island as a pool technician for a local company.

“That’s why we acted on this so quickly. We don’t want him out there running around, having access to people’s houses when they are not home,” Schnering said.

According to Higgins, Parker did not service the Kaleta and Higgins homes and Schnering was not aware of any other suspicious activity reported in connection with Parker’s employment as a pool technician.

“Due to our liability in the community I had to let him go. He’s no longer employed here,” his employer said on Friday, expressing hope that the young man can get his life turned around.