Hewitt: Tattoo helps police link local burglar to recent crimes

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HEWITT, Texas (KWTX) Two crimes solved by one tattoo.

Gregory Shanks (jail photo).

Hewitt police say they've bagged a burglar who tried to steal from two businesses in less than two weeks.

"We've identified him, and we've got him, and he's now in custody," said Chief Jim Devlin.

Gregory Shanks, 57, has been charged with burglary of a building and evading arrest.

He was in the McLennan County Jail Friday night on bonds totaling $7,000 and a TDCJ parole violation, according to jail records.

Around 8 p.m. on Oct. 20, motion detectors at a sign company in the 100 block of Jim Dr. caught a man burglarizing the store, but when officers arrived, the suspect was nowhere to be found because he didn't enter through that business.

"Ultimately what the investigation led to, was that we had a suspect who broke into a vacant business next door to this current business, kicked through the dry wall, and made entry into this business where they removed about $400 worth of cash," said Devlin.

According to Devlin, officers working the business burglary were coming up on dead ends at every turn.

"We really didn't know who this individual was until early this morning," said Devlin.

In a second burglary attempt Friday morning, he says the suspect's 'ink' was one of their links to both crimes.

"As we began to work on this case, we had some pretty significant identifiers for this suspect, specifically being a very large tattoo on this individual's neck," said Devlin.

HPD officers were on another call nearby when shortly after 5 a.m., they were told the alarm went off at Hewitt Grocery on Spring Valley Dr.

"One of the officers observed an individual peeking from behind the business," said Devlin.

Officers chased that individual on foot down Chelsea Dr. where he surrendered.

When officers returned to the scene to investigate, they noticed the wires cut for the alarm and the phone lines--they also found a bag of tools with a drill in the parking lot.

Surveillance video from inside the store captured what the suspect was attempting to do.

"You see a motion--he's trying to work the lock with that drill," said Devlin. "But he gets spooked and stops trying to make entry."

As the investigation continued, something about the suspect stood out to the officers.

"Patrol officers were pretty quick to realize this individual had a very similar tattoo on his neck as evidenced on the Jim Drive burglary, so they began to put two and two together," said Devlin.

He says that visual evidence--along with additional physical evidence--connects Shanks to both the burglary and the attempted burglary, and he believes more crimes are out there.

"I don't think that we're the only community that has been victimized by this individual, I'm pretty sure that this person has been operating in McLennan County," said Devlin. "So we're going to continue to work that angle and see what other offenses he may have committed by reaching out to other agencies to see if the M.O. (modus operandi) is similar."

The chief says Shanks is a convicted burglar currently on parole for a burglary charge.

"I don't think any Hewitt businesses should be concerned with this individual because he'll probably end up going back to prison," said Devlin.

However, there's always a level of concern businesses need to have to protect themselves from being broken into, he says.

"A little bit of extra safety when you lock up goes a long way," said Devlin.

Even with the best security measures in place, however, some crimes can't be prevented because they can't be predicted, Devlin says.

"The businesses did everything right," said Devlin. "Both these businesses made it difficult for the burglar to get inside,"

Devlin believes the suspect may have had some help trying to get inside these businesses.

"There's going to be more to this story, we have good information and evidence that other potential suspects were helping Shanks commit these crimes," said Devlin. "Investigators are continuing to work through evidence they've got to positively identify them and bring them to justice as well."