By Joe Johnson
Three suspects were arrested on felony charges Thursday in connection with the Christmas Eve ransacking and looting of a neighborhood grocery store in east Athens.
More than $24,000 in merchandise and property were stolen from Food Express, located on Fairview Street, across the street the Triangle Plaza shopping Center and Athens-Clarke County Police east substation.
Timothy Maurice Elder, 40, of Fairview Street, Garland Alan Paschal, 46, of Ashmore Drive and Tiffany Ridgeway, 41, of Rose Street were each booked into the Clarke County Jail on charges of theft by taking from a building and smash-and-grab burglary, according to the jail’s website.
Paschal was additionally charged with a misdemeanor probation violation.
Entry to the grocery store was made between 10 p.m. Dec. 30 and 8 a.m. Dec. 31 by thieves who forced open a back door, according to police.
A police incident report noted that the thieves stole, among other things, two cash registers and a bank bag that contained a total of $13,000 cash, dozens of cartons of cigarettes and boxes of cigars, lighters, digital scales, clothing items, frozen foods, candy and snacks, lottery tickets, a credit card terminal, laundry items and over-the-counter medications.
The thieves did considerable damage to the store’s interior when ripping out and stealing its security system, according to the police report.
Details of the investigation that led to the arrests of Elder, Paschal and Ridgeway were not being released by police Friday afternoon.
"Detectives indicate that this is still an active investigation," police spokesman Geof Gilland said.
As of Friday afternoon, all three suspects were being detained at the jail without bail being set.
Police asked that anyone with information about the burglary to call Detective Jonathan Simms at 762-400-7102.