Police arrest six in string of burglaries

Richmond County authorities think they have broken up a burglary ring that targeted homes in west and south Augusta neighborhoods to help fund a drug habit by the group's alleged mastermind.

Six people have been arrested. Richard Shane Strickland, 23, is charged with multiple counts of burglary along with his girlfriend, Jessica Renea Jackson, 20. Mr. Strickland's two brothers -- James Eric Strickland, 20, Aaron Keith Strickland, 18 -- and 27-year-old Michael Gustke, are each charged with two counts of theft by receiving.

Chad William McDaniel, 20, is charged with four counts of burglary, Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Horace Anderson said.

The thefts possibly date back to September with up to 60 houses having been burglarized. The most recent burglaries occurred last week on Glendale Drive and Overton Road in west Augusta near the Augusta Country Club.

Most of the goods stolen were electronic components, weapons and jewelry. Sgt. Horace Anderson said the jewelry thefts alone could amount to as much as $80,000.

Police originally arrested Mr. Strickland and Ms. Jackson on Friday and charged them each with multiple counts of burglary.

On Monday, Sgt. Anderson said Mr. Strickland was the primary perpetrator and "mastermind." He said Mr. Strickland would canvas "upscale" west and south Augusta neighborhoods and knock on doors to see if anyone was home.

"He'd do this in the middle of the afternoon," Sgt. Anderson said. "Often, when people were at work or school.

If no one answered, Mr. Strickland told police he'd kick-in the rear doors or break rear windows to get in and quickly snatch the items.

Ms. Jackson's role was the driver who would take Mr. Strickland to crime scenes -- until her car broke down, Sgt. Anderson said.

"Shane (Mr. Strickland) even used taxicabs to drop himself off," Sgt. Anderson said.

Although the other men didn't take property, Sgt. Anderson said "they all knew what was going on and may have benefitted from the money."

Many of the stolen items were stored at Madison on the Green apartments, where Mr. Strickland's brothers live with Mr. Gustke.

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office has joined the investigation and is currently questioning a Martinez jewelry shop owner about purchasing some of the property. Some of the stolen items were discovered at Augusta Coin Exchange, 4015 Washington Road, Sgt. Anderson said.

Sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said authorities are investigating and cataloging the recovered goods. "The property is here and we're looking at getting it into the hands of its rightful owners," he said.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.