James Barnhill, 30, is currently being held in the Scott County Jail under $25,000 bond. Scott County Prosecutor Paul Boyd charged Barnhill with felony stealing along with additional traffic charges following a high speed pursuit in Sikeston. Barnhill is also under investigation by Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Poplar Bluff police departments. Additional charges in those jurisdictions are expected.
Barnhill's arrest came after Sikeston Department of Public Safety was notified at 5 p.m. Friday by a woman that her billfold had just been stolen from her vehicle on West North Street. The woman gave officers a possible description of the vehicle and a "be-on-the-lookout" order was issued.
According to Sikeston DPS Director Drew Juden, a DPS narcotics detective observed the car on North West near Compress Road.
"Upon activating his emergency equipment, the vehicle sped up and tried to avoid capture traveling west on Compress Road at speeds estimated over 80 miles per hour," Juden noted in a news release issued Tuesday.
A check of the car's interior revealed the stolen billfold along with several other purses, which were reported stolen from throughout Southeast Missouri. Residents in Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Poplar Bluff all had stolen items that were recovered in the vehicle, Juden stated.
"The interesting twist to these series of crimes was that two or three had been stolen while the women had gotten out of their vehicles to pick up their children from day care facilities," said Juden.
He explained the victims had left their cars running and unlocked. The suspect observed the women were not carrying their purses, then went to their vehicles and stole the purses.
"This is just a good example of a crime of opportunity," said Juden, who went on to caution residents about making themselves targets for criminals, who will take advantage of any opportunity.