Authorities: Burglar's mistake helps law enforcement locate susp - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Authorities: Burglar's mistake helps law enforcement locate suspects


A popular East Texas cafe was burglarized last week, and authorities are hoping you can help them locate the suspect, who is still on the loose.

The precinct four Van Zandt County Constable's Office says a father and son duo are responsible for the crime. When authorities went looking for Richard Blankenship, they discovered he'd just been booked into jail in another county, but the constable's office says they're still looking for his son, Jeffery Blankenship.

Friday, authorities let us in on the mistake the suspects made that set police on their trail.

If you stepped inside The Shed cafe during lunch, you'd never know they were still recovering from a break-in.

"Normally my phone rings about 5:30 or 6, but the voice on the other end was, "Matt, your air conditioner is laying in the middle of your office. I immediately got that sinking feeling that something really bad had happened," says Matt Malone, the general manager at The Shed.

Malone rushed to The Shed to see the damage for himself. One safe was missing, another had almost been pried from the office, the computer was gone, but that wasn't all.

"They stole a picture of me and my son and that, to me, is personal. This is a family business. We get up everyday and come to work and we work hard and when someone violates that, it kinda, almost distorts the truth. Who can you trust?" asks Malone.

For him, the hardest part was breaking the news to his employees.

"I had to turn around and write a letter to the employees and say, 'Our stuff got stolen so now your social security number, driver's license, and all of that is at risk,'" says Malone.

The Van Zandt County Sheriff's and Precinct 4 Constable's Office spent the whole day on scene.

"They were right there by my side at all times and they said, don't worry, we're going to get them," says Malone.

Then, amidst the chaos, came a break in the case. On the office floor, was a stranger's debit card. Authorities believe one of the suspects dropped it during the burglary. The constable's office says when the suspects realized their mistake, they got in a fight and that's how Richard ended up behind bars, charged with assault. Authorities say Jeffery is still at-large.

Friday afternoon dive teams worked to recover the stolen safe that they believe was dumped in Lake Palestine. It's more evidence that officials hope will help close the case.

Noonday Fire Department dive teams were still in the water searching for the safe late Friday evening. The constable's office says they had just brought in another boat with sonar technology to aid in the search. If the safe isn't found tonight, game wardens will continue the search tomorrow.

Stay with KLTV for the latest developments.

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