Just when crime in Rock Hill didn’t seem it could get any worse, a villain drops to ugly depths uncharted in seas of maiming, shooting, stealing.
A thief stole $70 from a kid with cancer.
A man early Tuesday told a Scott’s Food Store clerk he needed water, got the water from the gracious employee, then stole the jar that had been collecting dollars to help for the treatment of 13-year-old Emily Elkins.
At the time of the theft, Emily was lying in a hospital bed in the middle of a five-day stretch of brutal chemotherapy that hopefully will save her life.
“I am just dumbfounded; I’m at a loss for words,” said William Elkins, Emily’s father, who works in maintenance at the S.C. Department of Transportation. “If somebody needed the money more than my sick daughter, well, I just would have given the guy the money.”
A couple of weeks ago, there was a motorcycle poker run to raise money for Emily, and Roddey Baptist Church held a gospel singing fundraiser. A few donation jars were set up, including the one at the Scott’s Food Store at the corner of Heckle Boulevard and South Cherry Road.
Ash Kumar, the store owner and a friend of the Elkins family – and just about anybody else who ever needed a hand – gladly put the jar on the counter.
“To help someone, to give, that is what we do,” Kumar said Thursday. “These are good people. Fine people. The little girl is sick and she needs the rest of us to help her – and then this guy comes here and takes the jar.
“But it gets worse. He had a plan.”
The surveillance video from the store, which has been given to police, shows a man come into the store with a red, 5-gallon bucket. The guy gets the water he requests and heads to the cooler for one cold beer.
“Looks like a Budweiser,” said Kumar.
Then the thief leaves the bucket on the floor and asks the cashier for a cigar.
“The cashier has to turn around to get the cigar,” Kumar said. “That’s when he grabbed the jar and put it in the water in the bucket. The water was the method.”
A thief who stole from a kid.
Kumar even believes the thief splashed the water into the jar inside the bucket so the change would make no noise.
Next to the donation jar at the time of the crime was a framed flyer that says who Emily is and how cancer has affected her. There were pictures of Emily smiling, before cancer, and in a cheerleader uniform before the cheers were silenced by illness.
“To make it worse, he was at the counter reading about the little girl,” Kumar said. “He knew what he was stealing, and from whom he was stealing.”
The theft, reported Tuesday to Rock Hill police, remains unsolved.
Just after she was diagnosed, Emily cried but wiped away tears. She defiantly stood in the kitchen, her father recalled, and said, “With God’s help, I am gonna beat this.”
The Rev. Ronnie Helms, pastor at Roddey Baptist Church, said prayer is the answer in these tough times when crime – even against a kid with cancer – seems to never cease.
“Prayer will bring that jar back,” Helms said Thursday after learning of the theft.
Customers in the store Thursday were sickened by the theft. A little old lady buying a cold soda called the crime “despicable.”
Each day for weeks, Emily has fought for her life and now the theft of what was thought to be around $70 seems like it would be a blow to the family trying to get through each day.
But William Elkins said far more important than any thief is the support his daughter has already received, and still is getting.
Undaunted as well, Kumar and his employees defiantly replaced the donation jar. But this time a clerk tied it down with a strong piece of rope.
Nobody will steal Emily’s jar again.
Emily turns 14 on Aug. 10. She and her family, as the chemo poisons continue to pump into her body, are fighting to reach that day to celebrate.
“I have friends like Ash here, people who care about us,” William Elkins said. “No thief can take that away from Emily.”