By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – A third suspect in the 2017 burglary of the Lake Side Food Mart, in Ratcliff, was taken into custody by Houston County law enforcement officials on Monday, Jan. 15 and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
Thirty-year-old Jessica Arredonda-Cepeda was booked into custody for her alleged role in a string of burglaries after she was caught on video exiting one of the vehicles used in the crime.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, the Ratcliff burglary was very similar to other recent burglaries in the area. In addition, surveillance video of the various robbery locations showed the same two vehicles at the differing locations.
The probable cause document went on to state as the investigation into the robbery unfolded, Houston County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Investigator Michael McCreight learned a pair of vehicles matching the description of those used in previous robberies were captured on video at the Express Truck Stop in Crockett.
“In the video,” the probable cause document stated, “it shows both vehicles pulling into the fuel pump area approximately 20 minutes after the Lake Side burglary was reported.”
Arredonda-Cepeda was identified as a passenger in one of the vehicles. Other video surveillance footage showed “… in the Latexo Hotspot burglary (in late 2017), both trucks are present and can be seen in the store’s video. All the burglaries have the same M/O (modus operandi) taking cigarettes and the cash drawers.”
The vehicles were traced back to 62-year-old Gary Lee Wood and 36-year-old Billy Joe Burns, both from the Houston area. Wood and Burns had previously been arrested for their roles in the burglary.
A video from a Hudson store burglary showed the same two vehicles were used in the commission of the crime while a separate video shows one of the vehicles was also involved in the burglary of a Family Dollar store in Leon County.
“In all the stores burglarized, the suspects gained entry by using a crowbar to bust the glass doors. They are all wearing hoodies and masks. It appears while one group is doing the burglary, the other vehicle is providing a lookout or security. Each burglary has taken under 30 seconds to complete,” the affidavit reported.
Arredonda-Cepeda was taken into custody on Jan. 15 and charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a second degree felony.
According to Section 12.33 of the Texas Penal Code, “An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the second degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the institutional division for any term of not more than 20 years or less than two years. In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the second degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.