Delaware State Police and officers from the Ocean View Police Department this week arrested two Ocean View-area residents in connection with a string of armed robberies at businesses throughout the area.
Police said they arrested Tervone Hall, 27, and Sara Finner, 26, of Railway Avenue on Dec. 29, after video surveillance footage that they had obtained from a business adjacent to Holt’s Liquors, which had been robbed on Dec. 23, helped them identify a maroon Isuzu with a missing piece of wheel-well trim as being a possible suspect vehicle in that robbery.
According to Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, whose department first learned about the surveillance cameras, those particular cameras had been unknown to police prior to a tip from a local resident.
“We had some assistance where a local citizen came to one of our officers and made us aware that there was a possibility that there were surveillance cameras available at a specific location in the area of Holt’s,” explained McLaughlin. “The police were unaware that these surveillance cameras existed, and we were able to work with that individual to locate some video footage that showed the suspect vehicle.”
McLaughlin said that, although the vehicle, an Isuzu Trooper, was visible in the video footage and a Delaware tag ending in the number 2 could be seen, there was still no positive ID on the vehicle.
“Kind of really acting on a hunch, one of our officers, Sid Ballentine, went out to the area of this home. We had been out there before and dealt with these individuals in the past on other investigations. And, lo and behold, it was the right house, the right vehicle, and everything came together.”
After locating the vehicle, OVPD contacted DSP and a search warrant was obtained. The State Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and OVPD went to the house and arrested Hall and Finner without incident.
“We were able to locate evidence linking the subjects to the crime,” said McLaughlin. “At this point in time, it’s a really an open-and-shut investigation. There’s absolutely no doubt that these were the individuals involved. So it was a good day.”
Upon the Dec. 29 arrests, police recovered the ski mask and gloves allegedly worn by Hall during the robberies, as well as a pellet pistol.
“It was one of those days, where the moon and the stars were aligned because everything just came together perfectly,” said McLaughlin.
He added that the arrests were an excellent example of teamwork among law enforcement agencies.
“It really was a team effort,” said McLaughlin. “You cannot operate in a vacuum.
We can’t simply throw up four walls around the town of Ocean View and put on our blinders and say, ‘We’re not going to worry about anything unless it occurs within these four walls.’ This is a prime example of that.
“These crimes didn’t occur in Ocean View but they’re right on our doorstep,” he emphasized, “and the fact of the matter is, citizens of Ocean View shop at Holt’s liquor store. Citizens of Ocean View patronize Fox’s Pizza. So it’s important for our folks, too, to live in an area that’s safe.
“It’s important for us, the law enforcement community, to work together to make the entire county safe. I think this is a great example of how we do that and how we do it successfully.”
Alleged robber and accomplice arrested on multiple charges
The six robberies in which Hall is a suspect occurred between Dec. 19 and 28, at Fox’s Pizza Den on Dec. 19, at Holt’s Liquors on Dec. 23 and at Millsboro Liquors on Dec. 28 and, in Selbyville, at Pomeroy’s Bar & Liquors on Dec. 26, at Bodie’s Dairy Market on Dec. 27 and at Danny’s Pizzeria, also on Dec. 27.
In each case, a black man about 5 feet, 8 inches tall – now believed to be Hall – entered the establishments while wearing a ski mask and displayed a handgun, and demanded money before fleeing.
Hall was charged with three counts of Robbery 1st Degree, three counts of Possession of a Firearm during the Commission of a Felony, three counts of Aggravated Menacing, three counts of Wearing a Disguise during the Commission of a Felony and Conspiracy 2nd Degree in connection with the robberies of Holt’s Liquors, Millboro Liquors and Fox’s Pizza Den.
Charges from the Selbyville Police Department in connection with the robberies of Pomeroy’s, Bodie’s and Danny’s Pizzaria were pending this week.
Hall was arraigned at JP Court 2 and committed to the Sussex Correctional Institution for lack of $151,000 secured bail.
Finner, police said, was charged after evidence was found indicating she was the alleged operator of the vehicle used to flee Holt’s Liquors following the robbery. She was charged with Robbery 1st Degree, Aggravated Menacing, Wearing a Disguise during the Commission of a Felony and Conspiracy 2nd Degree.
Finner was arraigned at JP Court 2 and committed to the Delores Baylor Correctional Institution for lack of $12,500 secured bail.
Following the arrests, Collins reported that Hall had confessed to all six robberies, including the three in Selbyville, during interviews conducted with the DSP and SPD.
Police offer suggestions to shop owners
McLaughlin said that businesses should maintain a working relationship with their local police department.
“Relationships are everything, especially in a small community,” he said. “We visit a lot of our local businesses pretty routinely. We’ve got a large number of business owners that we’ve established very good rapport with over the years, I think. Most of our commercial establishments are located on Route 26, and we maintain a good strong presence out on 26.”
Selbyville Police Chief Scott Collins said that good lighting outside and a well-staffed and well-lit store will help deter criminals.
“Obviously, if you can, you have more than one person. You make the fact that you have a surveillance system known, put the camera right where they can see it, let them know that they’re being recorded coming and going. That’s a huge deterrent right there.”
McLaughlin also said that being observant and being aware of your surroundings is key.
“Especially now, this time of the year, where it gets dark early and the businesses are still open, be aware. Work as a team, if you can. A lot of places, unfortunately, only have one person on at a time. People are forced to work alone.
“You don’t have to be hyper-vigilant,” McLaughlin added. “But if something’s suspicious, you have to be sure to take the appropriate action as soon as possible. If they see anything suspicious at all, don’t hesitate to call the police.”
Collins agreed and added that, in case of a robbery, employees should focus on being a good witness and should also be wary before considering any vigilantly action.
“Take down as much information as you can. Identify marks, their speech and clothing. Mentally take that down as much as possible. Comply as long as the complying doesn’t endanger your welfare, as well,” he advised.
“Obviously, when someone comes in with a weapon, demanding money, the money can be replaced and the life, health and welfare of the employees certainly come first. Don’t fight with these people. If they’re displaying a weapon, let them get what they get and go.”