Date: October 2, 2001 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Media Contact: Michal Shanley, (863) 534-6631 or 819-0397 pager
Mulberry Couple Charged in String of Burglaries in South Lakeland

Following an intensive investigation, Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives have charged a Mulberry couple in connection with a string of home burglaries that occurred in the South Lakeland area earlier this Summer. Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr., will meet with residents of the South Lakeland community tonight at 7 p.m. at the Trinity Baptist Church located at 6635 Old Highway 37 to discuss the investigation and charges.

Thomas D. Dunn, 7/8/55, of 3835 Janeen Circle in Mulberry, has been charged by warrant with: Burglary of an Occupied Residence; Grand Theft (two counts); Burglary of a Conveyance; Fleeing to Elude; and Resisting an Officer without Violence.  Numerous additional charges are pending reference a total of 32 burglaries of occupied residences in the South Lakeland area. Dunn currently is being held in a Georgia jail on charges from that state for two business burglaries, two grand thefts, and grand theft auto. He was arrested on those charges in Tomson, Georgia, last Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2001.

Dunn's girlfriend, Karla F. McDonald, 6/9/59, also of 3835 Janeen Circle in Mulberry, was arrested Saturday (Sept. 29, 2001) in Tennessee on a Polk warrant charging Grand Theft. She was brought back to Polk County on Monday (Oct. 1, 2001). Numerous charges also are pending against her.

At the time of Dunn's arrest in Georgia, he was in possession of a vehicle stolen during a residential burglary in Plant City, Florida, that was similar in nature to the string of burglaries in Polk County. The investigation escalated, and a search warrant was issued in Polk County for Dunn and McDonald's residence. The search warrant was executed last Wednesday night (Sept. 26, 2001). Approximately 300 items believed to be stolen were recovered from the couple's residence. Recovered items include night vision goggles, laptop computers, cell phones, VCRs, DVDs, video tapes, wallets, purses and other personal items. Some of the recovered stolen property already has been linked to the string of Lakeland burglaries. Investigators also have developed additional evidence linking Dunn to the Lakeland burglaries. A property viewing of the recovered items is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 5-6). 

The Polk County charges stem from a string of home burglaries that occurred between June 6, 2001, and August 15, 2001. The burglaries of occupied residences occurred in the Christina, Longwood Oaks and Royal Forest subdivisions, south of Lakeland.  In each case, entry was gained through opened garages, unlocked doors and windows. During surveillance operations in the early morning hours of August 16, 2001, deputies observed a white mini-van in the area of the Longwood Oaks subdivision. A male suspect exited the vehicle and attempted to penetrate the fence surrounding the subdivision.  The white van then sped off from the area. Responding deputies closed in on the fleeing vehicle, which proceeded south on State Road 37.  The van made a rapid turn into the Lakewood Mobile Park and accelerated to the west. This road is a dead end and the vehicle careened through a fence, coming to halt on a railroad right of way.  One suspect was observed jumping from the vehicle and fleeing on foot.  Attempts to apprehend the suspect were unsuccessful at that time.  The vehicle, a white Ford Wind Star, had been stolen during the course of a burglary in early June in the same area of the other burglaries.

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Distribution: Undersheriff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

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