JEWEL THIEF BACK IN COURT
by B J BECKHAM
The trial of Opal May, which began on December 24th in the New Grace County Courthouse, continued Friday .
To recap – Craig LaPorte of the Attorney General’s office promised the jury he would present video and documents to prove defendant Opal May, owner of Krystal Karats, staged the robbery of her own store and in her attempt to flee the scene caused the death of Theresa Burkart. Ms. May is charged with felony murder, insurance fraud, discharging a weapon within the town limits and filing a false police report.
Rachel Shorte of Henley, Martin and Kelly, representing the defendant, gave an opening statement which presented the events of July 8, 2015 in a completely different light.
The first to testify for the prosecution was Detective Malcolm Corley of the New Grace Police Department. Det. Corley stated that when they arrived on the scene the store looked like a typical armed robbery scene: the glass of jewelry displays had been broken, bullets had clearly struck the wall as well as several objects and the safe was wide open. The owner, the defendant Opal May, was upset and kept repeating how she feared for her life during the whole ordeal. “The woman was hysterical. I felt it was best to get her checked out and, over her objections, I called for EMTs.”
The initial police investigation of the scene raised no red flags. According to the owner, a woman pushing a stroller had entered the store, pulled a gun and demanded she open the safe. When she hesitated, the woman discharged her weapon. The intimidation was successful and Ms. May complied. Everything fit the scenario as told by the owner. The security system was not working and according to the owner had been broken for some time. “That struck me as odd. Why would a high end store allow their system to remain broken? I remember commenting to my partner, ‘What kind of robber would come into an open store in broad daylight to rob it without a mask when you can clearly see the cameras hanging from the ceiling?” recalled the detective. “It was at that point we began to suspect it was an inside job.”
An investigation into the jewelry store records showed more than one hundred eighty thousand dollars had been funneled out of the accounts over the past year and deposits were traced to an account in the Cayman Islands in the name of the defendant’s sister. Spencer Tuddle, forensic accountant, testified, “There appeared to be several items listed as inventory that were neither in the store or recovered from the so called robbery. There was no record these items were every on the premises.”
“Ms. May was genuinely surprised when her husband, the co-owner, said that the reason he had not rushed to fix the system was because it had a backup redundant system which he had been relying on,” said Detective Winston Spaulding.
Based on the evidence presented, there is no doubt Ms. May was alone in the store when the alleged robbery took place. The opening statement of Rachel Shorte of Henley, Martin and Kelly, representing the defendant, concentrated on defending against the charge of felony murder, the most serious crime charged.
The prosecution is expected to rest their case on Monday. There was much speculation among bystanders, many attorneys, as to whether or not Ms. May will take the stand when the defense presents their case.