Pat Stark and her husband, Daniel, spent a night in Rock Hill this week out of necessity.
Two weeks after Pat Starks mother, Gerri, died, they hit the road, transporting a box trailer full of jewelry, furniture, photo albums and other memorabilia from Gerris Ohio home to Florida. Early Monday, they stopped at the Microtel Inn & Suites hotel on Riverview Road with plans to hit the road again after some rest.
When they awoke around 9 a.m., Pat and Daniel Stark found that their Ford F250 crew cab, carrying a briefcase stocked with $100,000 worth of jewelry, and the trucks attached box trailer, filled with at least $7,000 worth of furniture and $4,000 worth of power tools, were gone.
There was no surveillance video to record what happened.
(The truck) was parked under a light in the parking lot, said Pat Stark, chief nursing officer at a Florida hospital. It was locked; we both had sets of keys.
The thief had to have broken in and hotwired the truck, she said.
The theft comes at a difficult time for the Stark family.
In late January, Starks mother left her home in Ohio, where she had lived on the same block for 76 years and worked as a store department clerk, to stay with her daughter in Florida for vacation. She soon became ill and entered hospice.
On March 15, she died in her daughters home at 79.
She never got to say goodbye to her friends and family members in Ohio, Pat Stark said. She was a hard worker and a good provider, holding down a job at the store while her husband worked in a steel mill.
After Gerri died, we had to have her body shipped up to Ohio, Pat Stark said. We had her funeral. We went through her house and got her memorabilia.
Pat Stark and her brother each took some mementos. Gerris only daughter, Pat Stark got all the jewelry, including her mothers wedding ring. On the way back to Florida, the Starks hauled Gerris belongings in the trailer.
En route, they were met with a snowstorm near Virginia. While making their way out of the stormy weather, they grew tired.
We were afraid we might fall asleep or cause an accident, Pat Stark said. We didnt want to hurt anybody. We thought it was more responsible to stop, sleep for maybe five hours and leave. We have been in Rock Hill many times.
Now, theyre back in Florida, hoping that someone will find their china, stemware and silverware most of which they expect the car thief threw away.
Pat Stark admits they shouldnt have left luggage in their truck, but she believes surveillance wouldve resulted in a quick arrest and answers.
Microtel has security cameras that cover the interior of the building, said Dilip Patel, the hotels general manager.
Some mid-scale, economy-size hotels dont have exterior cameras or security guards posted at the door because its not necessary, Patel said. Microtel is no exception.
Its not like a shopping center or a big parking lot or restaurant where cars get broken into often, Patel said. We never really have any incidents at the hotel.
Car theft uncommon
According to Rock Hill crime map data, no thefts or break-ins have been reported at the hotel within the last year.
Last year, 250 property crimes, including shoplifting, larcenies and motor vehicle break-ins but excluding arsons, pocket-picking and purse-snatching incidents, were reported within a mile of the hotel, data shows. So far this year, 64 similar crimes have been committed within a mile of Microtel, but none have been reported within 500 feet of the actual hotel, data shows.
Last May, Phillip Honeycutt, of Mauldin, robbed the Microtel and the Hampton Inn on Tabor Drive. He was arrested in Charlotte by the U.S. Marshals and extradited to Greenville, where in January he pleaded guilty to three counts of strong-arm robbery and received a seven-year prison sentence for crimes he committed there.
He hasnt been sentenced in York County yet because it appears his warrants havent been served, said Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Court solicitor. Police last year said Honeycutt would be charged after hes extradited back to the county.
Rock Hills Ronnie Duncan also was charged in connection with the Rock Hill hotel robberies after police accused him of acting as Honeycutts lookout and getaway driver. In October, he pleaded guilty to two counts of strong-arm robbery and was sentenced to 69 days in jail and one year of probation.
Seeking a suspect
Patel said Microtel, which is staffed around the clock, is working with the police in hopes of recovering the Starks valuables. Hes offering a $500 reward through Crime Stoppers for anyone who gives a tip that helps police identify and arrest those responsible for the theft.
Tuesday evening, police were still following leads and hadnt found the truck, said Rock Hill Police Executive Officer Mark Bollinger.
Daniel Stark said he told police hed be able to give detectives all the jewelry appraisals once he and his wife returned home.
When its not where you left it, you go into instantaneous shock, he said.
You get a pit in your stomach; your legs start shaking. Youre travelling all over and then you have to start thinking, youre 500 miles from home.
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082