“We are asking for your help in locating Don Stephens,” said Grady Judd. “Stephens is bold and has apparently targeted schools as a place to steal property. He has a lengthy criminal history for theft. If you see Don Stephens, contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office immediately. We want this guy in jail today.”
38-year-old Don Cornelius Stephens, DOB 01/11/1975, described as being approximately 5’06” with an average build, and having a clean shaven head and face, has been identified as the suspect who entered three Polk County Schools removing personal property during school hours from at least two of them.
At approximately 1:30 pm, on Friday, January 24, 2014, a student at Sikes Elementary School, located at 2727 Shepherd Road, Lakeland, observed Stephens exit one classroom and enter another. It was later learned one teacher was missing a wallet, while a second was missing her purse. Witnesses mistakenly thought the suspect was a custodian.
As detectives were investigating, they learned a similar incident occurred approximately an hour earlier at Purcell Elementary, 305 1st St NE, Mulberry - less than five miles from Sikes Elementary.
A paraprofessional at Purcell reported an unknown black male entered into the main office through an employee’s-only door. When asked if he was there to speak with the principal, the subject responded that he already spoke with the principal, and left the building.
Stephens is believed to be involved in a similar incident which occurred on Friday, January 17, 2014, at the Davenport School of the Arts, 4751 County Road 547 N, Davenport. There were no children present during this incident; it was a teacher work day, however, two wallets and a cell phone were taken during this burglary.
Stephens has an extensive criminal history to include numerous charges for Burglary and Theft. He was released from Florida State Prison on December 23, 2013, after completing a five year sentence for committing similar crimes at four other elementary schools in Polk County in 2009.
Anyone with information in Stephens’s whereabouts is urged to contact Detective Angie Macke at 863.499.2400, or 863.298.6200.
ANYONE WITH INFORMATION WHO WANTS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS AND BE ELIGIBLE FOR A CASH REWARD IS ASKED TO CALL HEARTLAND CRIME STOPPERS AT 1-800-226-TIPS or LOG ONTO www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. ANONYMITY IS GUARANTEED! iPhone users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install this free app, search for "TipSoft" or "TipSubmit" on the Apple App Store.