Linda Hiers King didn't think anything of jumping in her car and tailing some suspicious teenagers a few weeks ago.
Now that her quick-thinking led to six arrests in connection with a rash of burglaries in the Leah area, she is considered a hero by her neighbors - but, she doesn't exactly feel like one.
"Well, I didn't to start with," King said. "I was kind of scared to death, nervous. But everybody keeps calling me and stopping me on the golf cart in the neighborhood telling me, 'You are our hero. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."'
On Oct. 2, King watched out of the kitchen window of her Keg Creek Drive home as a teen on a dirt bike emerged across the street out of the woods, which are private property. He rode a short distance down the road before two more teens came out. Thinking the boys should have been in school at that early afternoon hour, King said they appeared to be acting
A car slowly pulled up to the small dirt road entrance to the woods, and the young men loaded guns into it, King said.
Linda Hiers King, of Appling, sits behind the wheel of her Mazda Miata, which she now calls her "chase car" after following people police later arrested on burglary charges.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
Knowing that several thefts had taken place burglaries in the area, King called 911. While on the phone with the dispatcher, the car started to drive off, so King grabbed her keys and followed the white car in her Miata, which she now refers to as her "chase car."
She had to hide from the car once, which stopped to load in the dirt-bike driver, but she stayed on the phone for several minutes with the dispatcher and followed the car onto Washington Road until it was stopped by Columbia County Sheriff's Office deputies.
In the car, authorities found a rifle and crossbow that belonged to Joel and Tanya Smith, whose home on Eubank Drive had been burglarized earlier that day.
Police arrested Jacob Christopher Miles, 17, of Keg Creek, Appling, and charged him with seven counts of burglary. He is being held at the Columbia County Detention Center on a combined $145,350 bond.
"It is not just (the burglary of) our house that you helped them break by watching out your front window," Tanya Smith said during her first meeting with King last week.
Less than a week later, investigators made five more arrests in connection with at least nine burglaries on or near Eubank and Keg Creek drives since the end of August, in which an estimated $16,00 of property was stolen.
"(King's actions leading to the traffic stop) is what started the whole investigation," said Columbia County sheriff's Lt. Gil Lopez.
Jovone Duvale Bennett, 22, of Cummings Road, Evans, is being held on a $12,600 bond for burglary and forgery charges. Todd Wayne Griffey, 18, of Dewey Drive, Martinez, is being held on a $50,050 bond for receiving stolen property.
A 16-year-old juvenile also was arrested. Alex Lee Spargur, 17, of Cold Springs Drive, Grovetown, was released on bond after being charged with burglary and other unrelated charges, said Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.
Michael Lee Johnson, 17, of Ridge Road, Appling, faces four burglary charges and is being held on a $85,200 bond.
The burglaries have affected the tight lakefront community with neighbors now locking doors and chaining fences.
"We pretty much just look out for each other like a neighborhood watch," said Roy Giles, president of the Clarks Hill Lake Association/Leah. "We are on (a more) alerted state than we were. If we see anything unusual, we just keep a look out."
Lopez said investigators might connect the group to more burglaries as lake homeowners return to their summer homes and discover break-ins.
King and other local residents have begun an intensive neighborhood watch program, which includes daily patrols on her golf cart, she said.
"We kind of want to give a message to anybody that is going to track up here and do anything else, that we are ready for them," she said.
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