Suspects indicted in $4.4M jewelry heist [audio]

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 (Shirley Min/WHYY)

(Shirley Min/WHYY)

Five armed robbers who stole hundreds of pieces of jewelry, including a four pound ruby worth $2 million, have been arrested, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Delaware. 

A newly unsealed December indictment names Darrell Williams, aka “Blue,” David Story, aka “Dawoo,” Rufus Lawson, aka “Ru,” “Alonzo Nowell,” and Willie Hawkins Smith, all from Philadelphia, as defendants. Jackie Howard is also named in the indictment; Howard was indicted separately in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The defendants are accused of orchestrating and carrying out a November 2011 smash and grab at Stuart Kingston Jewelers, located at 2010 Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilmington. Charges include armed robbery, conspiracy and firearm possession.

“We are in the process of scheduling initial appearances for the four defendants that we charged in the Delaware indictment,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie M. McCall said. McCall is prosecuting the case which will take place in U.S. Magistrate Court in Wilmington next week.

All of the stolen jewelry, which includes the one-of-a-kind Liberty Bell ruby, is valued at approximately $4,439,712.50.

‘The store was targeted.’

According to the indictment, the defendants did their homework in the weeks leading up to the robbery of Stuart Kingston Jewelers.

Knowing the jewelry store’s front door is locked at all times unless an employee remotely unlocks the door, one of the defendants, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says, did not wear a mask to gain access. Once the front door was open, the rest of the crew, wearing masks and gloves, rushed the store and used hammers to smash glass cases containing the jewelry in the brazen daytime heist.

“The store was targeted… the defendants cased the store to learn the layout of the store and then the robbery itself was a particularly violent armed robbery — duct tape, zip ties were used, as well as a firearm,” said McCall.

The indictment states the defendants drove two separate cars to the jewelry store. One was a rented, white U-Haul cargo van, with a stolen New York state license plate to hide the van’s legitimate plate. The other car was a rented Nissan Sentra, which operated as a lookout.

If convicted, Darrell Williams, David Story, Rufus Lawson, and Willie Hawkins Smith each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Mixture of emotions

Store manager Edward Stein, who is also the son of owner Jim Stein, says his family has known about the arrests for a few months.

“It’s great that they caught them, we’re definitely happy about that,” Stein said. “It’s tough because we did have such a great loss that it’s sort of bitter, but happy, so there’s a mixture of emotions.”

Stein says not a single piece of jewelry has been recovered and insurance could only cover so much of the loss. “Hopefully they’ll get put away for a long time.”

Stein says the events of that day are still fresh in his and his employees’ minds.  

“When it happened it was such a surreal kind of thing,” he said. “You don’t expect people to come in with guns and hammers, it’s just not an everyday occurrence, you see it in the movies… It’s almost like it’s not even happening to you, it’s happening to someone else.”

Stein says his staff is much more aware of the possibility of another robbery occurring, even more so now that everything is in the news again.

Security has been tightened up. The store has added a ‘man trap,’ two sets of doors that only open after one has been shut, more surveillance cameras and a security person.

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