LAKE WYLIE — It was still early afternoon when Lyn Harper walked into her Lake Wylie home more than a year ago and could immediately tell something wasnt right.
She would learn that a man she had never met before broke into her house during the day, pilfering assorted jewelry, prescription medications and items of sentimental value that simply cant be replaced.
Now, Sam Peden Harrington, whose criminal record shows a history of burglaries, thefts and conflicts with law enforcement, will answer for nearly 20 charges in York County after police say he committed several burglaries over a year ago, including breaking into Harpers home.
Harrington, 54, currently of Laurinburg, N.C., but formerly of Rock Hill, is jailed at the York County Detention Center, charged with seven counts of grand larceny; nine counts of burglary, including first and second-degree; two counts of malicious injury to personal property; and violating his probation, according to jail records. He is also being held, without bond, for another agency.
Last year, he was arrested in Gaston County after leading police on a chase that ended with him driving into a police car before veering into oncoming traffic, The Charlotte Observer reported. Police were helping York County Sheriffs deputies search for him after they received a tip he was staying at a motel in Gastonia.
At least since 2011, deputies had been tracking Harrington after the owner of Lake Wylies Allison Creek Partners, LLC, reported that someone broke into the business and stole more than $17,000 worth of items, including a Civil War chess set, a woven basket from Charleston, four Navajo Indian rugs and office equipment, according to a York County Sheriffs report.
Nearly two weeks later, Harper told deputies that between 6:20 a.m. and 3 p.m., someone kicked in the back door of her home and stole valuables worth more than $7,000.
Police found one of the rugs stolen from Allison Creek Partners at a mans home in Belmont, N.C. The man said Harrington, his acquaintance, asked to store some items at his home, a report states. Detectives also found a business card for the Knife Shop in Fort Mill. In speaking with the owner, police learned that Harrington sold the stolen chess set to the shop for $50.
Once Harrington was arrested in North Carolina, police searched his home and found several items that belonged to Harper and her family.
The most sentimental stuff is the stuff we didnt recover, she said.
Harper, a secretary at Crowders Creek Elementary School, and her husband own the Golf Masters range beside their house on Charlotte Highway, she said. Someone usually is at the business all day, she added.
He would have had to watch the house to know exactly when we leave and when we come back, she said. In my opinion, he wasnt afraid to get caught.
A year later, Harper and her family still deal with their insurance company and now mourn the loss of Harpers mother and mother-in-law, both of whose possessions Harrington stole.
In August last year, Harrington was sentenced in Gaston County to six years in prison for eluding arrest and assault with a deadly weapon upon a government official, according to North Carolina jail records. About three weeks ago, he was transferred to the York County Detention Center, where hes still held.
Harringtons criminal history spans the Carolinas, going back to 1976, when he was sentenced to three years probation in York County for larceny. A year later, he pleaded guilty to three counts of grand larceny, using a car without owners consent, house breaking and burglary. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. A few arrests in South Carolina but no convictions followed through the 1980s.
In 1989, he was released from a Mecklenburg County prison after serving four years for several counts of larceny, breaking into a motor vehicle and an attempted escape from prison, according to records with the N.C. Department of Corrections. In 1993, Harrington was sentenced in York County to 25 years behind bars for multiple grand larceny, criminal conspiracy and burglary charges.
Maria David of The Charlotte Observer contributed