The Rock Hill man police say used a ruse of asking for water for a broken-down truck to steal a donation jar meant for a 14-year-old girl who has cancer is a twice-convicted burglar on probation who was recently released from prison, court records show.
Rock Hill police have arrest warrants for Johnny Ray Kendricks, 49, but have not been able to find him, Lt. Brad Redfearn said. And while police continue to search for Kendricks, Emily Elkins remains in a hospital bed.
Labor Day weekend was terrible for Emily, who turned 14 on Aug. 10 while undergoing chemotherapy. She contracted pneumonia and a stomach infection.
My little girl is fighting for her little life, said her father, William Elkins.
Arrest warrants allege that Kendricks stole the jar containing about $70 from the Scotts Food Store at the corner of Heckle Boulevard and South Cherry Road. The warrant states the crime with an economy of words: The donation jar was to help a sick girl.
Awful, is how Ash Kumar, owner of the store and friend of the Elkins family, described the theft of a donation jar from a sick child. How can someone do such a thing?
Around 2 a.m. July 31, Kendricks allegedly came into the store carrying a red bucket. He asked for and received water from an employee, then went to the cooler for a single beer.
Kendricks asked for a cigar, police say, and when the cashier turned to get one, Kendricks grabbed the donation jar and stashed it inside the bucket.
The bucket was on the floor, out of the clerks sight but not out of sight of the stores surveillance cameras.
The man police say is Kendricks is seen on the video looking at a printed sheet explaining that the jar was for a child with cancer. The sheet had Emilys picture on it and said she had cancer, she was a cheerleader, and that all the money was to help the family with mounting expenses.
Kendricks criminal record dates back to 1981, according to police and court documents.
Since The Herald reported the theft Aug. 2, donations have poured in for Emily. A benefit barbecue and festival, held at the store by Kumar and his wife, Deb, raised almost $2,000. Donations have come from as far away as Virginia.
The generosity of people is something we will never forget, Elkins said. Overwhelming.
A replacement jar, this one tied down, was put on the Scotts store counter immediately after the theft, and bills continue to be stuffed inside.
The jar will stay right here to raise money for this wonderful girl and her family, Kumar said Friday. Theft cannot stop the good in peoples hearts.
Elkins drove to Charlotte Friday to spend another day at the hospital, relieving Emilys mother from almost around-the-clock vigils.
Its hard for my little girl, and over the weekend, it was so bad for her, and on top of all of it, the jar was taken, Elkins said. Emily is such a kind kid; she would have just given away the money if somebody needed it more than she did.
Andrew Dys 803-329-4065