Rincon police believe they have arrested the men responsible for a string of thefts around the city and say more arrests could be coming.
Daniel Laudermilk was arrested Tuesday afternoon and Eric Anderson, his alleged accomplice, was apprehended Wednesday in connection with the thefts of a number of air conditioning units for their copper wiring.
Acting on a tip, Rincon Police Detective Scott Collins intercepted Laudermilk on his way to a Springfield recycling center. Collins noticed a tub of copper wire and asked Laudermilk, who was a passenger in a truck being driven by his brother, where he got the wire.
“They said it was legal and that it was from different jobs,” Collins said.
Collins then asked Laudermilk to come with him to the police department and interviewed him for three hours.
Laudermilk admitted to stealing the truck from his stepbrother and after he was taken to the Effingham County Jail and interviewed by Collins and Rincon Police Chief Michael Berry.
During that session, Laudermilk admitted to stealing all nine air conditioning units reported as stolen or missing and some that weren’t reported and to stealing copper wire from The Springs at Effingham apartment complex and a theft at NAPA Auto Parts. He also confessed to a burglary at CCR Plumbing.
According to Rincon Police, Laudermilk was using the money to support a drug habit that he is now trying to kick.
“In a nutshell, he admitted to all the thefts, and then some,” Collins said.
The depth of Laudermilk’s confession also caught the officers by surprise.
“Chief Berry and I were so happy,” Collins said. “It was surreal. You usually don’t see things like this, a full confession in this case.”
In all, nine air conditioning units were reported to be stolen. Collins has attempted to speak with all the known victims to let them know about the arrests.
“They are elated,” he said of those he’s been able to reach.
Laudermilk has been charged with one theft — the air conditioning unit at Effingham Baptist Church — but Collins said he will confer with the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office for more charges. Laudermilk’s brother, who was driving the truck when he was stopped, was not arrested and Collins said the brother was surprised at what was going on.
Berry and Collins said the community responded with a multitude of tips and calls after the department released a photo of a green Chevrolet Silverado believed to be used in connection with the air conditioning thefts.
“CrimeStoppers was huge in these arrests,” Collins said, “and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office was big in this, too.”
Said Berry: “I’m very proud of the police department and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office working together. Detective Collins has worked very hard, and Sheriff (Jimmy) McDuffie has been very supportive in our efforts with resources and manpower.”
Berry also praised his patrol and investigative divisions for their cooperation and in stepping up their presence in the areas of businesses that had been hit to either catch or at least deter more thefts.
“It all came together because everybody was working together as a team,” he said.
Once the Rincon Police released the video and photo of the suspected truck, calls started coming in at 8 a.m. the next day. Collins said people began to call them and tell the police that either they didn’t think anything of what they saw or didn’t think it was worth calling the police about.
“We definitely care,” Collins said.