Northeast Tarrant

This detective dusted a piggy bank for prints when a little girl’s savings were stolen

From left, Southlake Department of Public Safety Det. J.D. Ellis and Officer Myles Jenkins.
From left, Southlake Department of Public Safety Det. J.D. Ellis and Officer Myles Jenkins.

When a worker stole about $600 from the children of a Southlake family, including $400 from a girl’s piggy bank, Department of Public Safety Det. J.D. Ellis gave the case his full attention.

A Southlake resident praised Ellis and Officer Myles Jenkins, who responded to a theft call on Fanning Street at about 4 p.m. Dec. 2.

The woman, who couldn’t be reached for comment, wrote in a Facebook post that after her house sustained water damage, the family had contractors coming and going.

One of them stole the money from her 8-year-old daughter’s piggy bank and a wallet worth about $100 with $40 in cash inside from her 16-year-old daughter, Ellis said.

After Jenkins responded to the call, Ellis took over the investigation, even going so far as to bring the piggy bank to the crime lab and dusting it for fingerprints, he said.

Ellis knew it was unlikely he’d find any prints other than the girl’s, but he had it dusted on the off-chance that it would turn up the suspect’s prints — and for another reason, he said.

“I wanted her to know that she matters, that she’s important,” Ellis said. “Even if it’s just money, to an 8-year-old, that matters. I want our citizens to know we’re not overlooking anything.

“A young girl’s life savings were taken from her bedroom, and a stranger in her house violated her trust,” Ellis said.

Sure enough, a print turned up on the piggy bank, but it wasn’t particularly helpful.

“I showed the mom the piggy bank, and I told her, ‘I think I found our suspect.’ It was a little tiny fingerprint that was her daughter’s, and she got a good laugh out of that,” Ellis said.

But the detective tracked down the owner of the company that employed the piggy bank thief, and Ellis said the owner was “very cooperative.”

“He’s owned this business for 20 years, and he said this is not acceptable,” Ellis said.

The owner hand-delivered a check for $700 to the family. “It’s a huge win for everyone involved,” Ellis said.

Ellis admitted that the thief is technically still at large, but said the check was “an avenue for the two parties involved to take care of it, and she’s accepted the check to make her whole.”

“I don’t have any children, but I have nieces and nephews, and I try to just spin (this case) to where, if I were the victim and my child’s savings were taken, I would want the police to take that seriously,” Ellis said.

Stephen English covers breaking news for the Star-Telegram. He attended Texas Wesleyan University and has lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for more than 30 years.