More than a dozen people were charged and nearly $60,000 in stolen items were recovered in a five-month investigation into home burglaries in Putnam and Clay counties, according to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.
Detectives in Putnam County said multiple burglaries in the Bostwick area prompted them to create a burglary task force, which led investigators to similar burglaries in neighboring Clay County.
Putnam detectives said at least five home burglaries were committed during the daytime hours over the summer. They said the burglary suspects broke in and stole firearms, electronics, jewelry, paper documents and safes.
According to the Sheriff's Office, the group had one person who would go into a neighborhood, look at different homes and the patterns of residents, then decide to strike.
"When they were leaving, when they were going to work, how long they were usually gone, when they were coming back, and they would watch a house for a while until they were comfortable they knew those patterns," Sheriff's Office spokesman Hancel Woods said.
Investigators said that based on physical evidence, including eyewitness accounts, they identified and charged 13 people in connection with the burglaries. Ten have been arrested and three were being sought.
Those charged were Sean Headley Jr., Donna Headley, Cornell Pena, Michael Carter, Brian Brantley, Andrew Sullivan, Angel Jones, William Mitchell, Victor Conception, Richardo Herrera, Von Mitchell, Christopher Maze and Loman Largen.
The charges against them include armed burglary, grand theft of a firearm, grand theft, and dealing in stolen property. The suspects' bonds range from $1,500 to nearly $300,000.
Robert McCarthy and Robert Dale are currently being held in the Clay County jail on pending charges related to Putnam and Clay counties' ongoing investigations, detectives said.
Resident Kenny Stevens said the burglary suspects took his guns, a laptop and a safe.
"I noticed my front door was open, and I make sure my doors are closed when I leave, and it was open and I knew something was wrong then," Stevens said. "So I eased in the house and it was trashed."
Deputies said they got a break in the case August during a robbery in progress in Interlachen. They said they arrested Dale, which led to burglary warrants for the others.
"The perseverance of these dedicated detectives is what it took to catch these criminals," Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy said. "It is an honor to work alongside these outstanding individuals."
People in the Bostwick neighborhood said they're glad deputies made the arrests.
"I don't have to worry about someone coming in to my home with my small children during the night, and if my husband is out of town working, I don't have to worry about someone coming in and scaring us half to death," resident Stella Mathis said.
The group is also connected to nine burglaries in the Keystone Heights area of Clay County.
Stevens has been able to recover some of the things the burglars stole, but he said there is something he'll never get back.
"I don't feel near as safe as I used to," he said. "Every afternoon when I go home, that's the first thing I look for is open windows and doors, tire tracks, footprints, anything out of place. Even at night, any sound that I hear I get up and check on. I don't feel the same in my own home."
Detectives estimate their recovery of items from these cases is nearly $60,000. With several items, including firearms, still missing, the Sheriff's Office is asking the public for their help to support the ongoing efforts in finding them.
Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 386-329-0821 or Crime Stoppers at 888-277-8477 to remain anonymous and receive a possible reward of up to $1,000.