Weinberger stole alone, sheriff says

EATONTON, Ga. --- By day, Jay Weinberger lived the kind of successful life many businessmen live. But, for unknown reasons, when darkness settled in he became a thief, authorities say.

Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said Tuesday that the 47-year-old "was apparently living a double life."

According to police accounts, Mr. Weinberger ended his life early Saturday when he shot himself in the head with a 9 mm pistol just minutes after stealing a concession trailer in Putnam County. He had been spotted on Harmony Road by Deputy John Saunders without taillights and with an expired tag on the trailer.

Mr. Weinberger was co-owner with his brother, Mark, of Weinberger's Furniture and Mattress Showcase in Augusta and at Lake Oconee in Greene County.

Sheriff Sills said Mr. Weinberger was responsible for at least six trailer thefts.

"He clearly was doing this alone," the sheriff said. "He didn't need any other help to do what he was doing."

The trailer Mr. Weinberger was pulling was owned by the Lake Oconee Elks Lodge No. 2849. When authorities arrived on the scene, they found that someone had tried to remove the Elks decals from one side of the trailer. Two cans of decal remover -- one used -- were found inside the cab of the truck, which was registered to Weinberger Enterprise, Sheriff Sills said.

He said two trailers were found at the family business warehouse in Augusta and two others at the family business in Greene County. Those trailers had been stolen and their serial numbers removed. One trailer found at the business at Lake Oconee had been repainted and bore the name Weinberger's Furniture and Mattress Showcase on the sides. It contained furniture pieces.

The sheriff said that had it not been for Mr. Weinberger's brother, Mark, authorities might never have known about the two trailers in Augusta.

"His brother has cooperated with us 100 percent," Sheriff Sills said. "It's a real tough time for that family."

At least two of the trailers seized by authorities were empty. Two others were described as concession trailers and contained cooking equipment. One of the trailers and a boat trailer, containing stainless steel cooking equipment, were seized from the property of a man in Putnam County who was said to be an acquaintance of Jay Weinberger.

Sheriff Sills said the man, whom he would not identify, is not connected to the thefts. The man told authorities that Mr. Weinberger asked his permission to park the trailers on his property.

"We're fairly certain that Mr. Weinberger was taking the stolen trailer that he was pulling to that property," said Sheriff Sills, noting that Mr. Weinberger was about two miles from that property when he was stopped.

The Elks trailer was stolen between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Saturday.

Sheriff Sills said he expects the case to be wrapped up within a couple of weeks.