COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - A shoplifting case in Cookeville has puzzled police, and even the victim, after a man allegedly left behind his name, phone number, and email address moments before he stole several items.
It happened at the Up & Dyed Art Shop located on West Broad Street.
"We were having an open house, and we'd had a lot of folks come in and out," said Ruth Cooper, the store's manager and one of 12 artists who works at the store. "I saw him take a piece of merchandise off the wall, and then I saw him put an empty hanger back on the rack."
Cooper says she started walking toward the man, but he immediately left the store. What she didn't realize at the time, is that he had filled out a registration for a door prize drawing just before the theft occurred.
"He left us his name, phone number, and his email address," she said. "I mean, that's what I thought, how dumb could you be?"
Cooper called Cookeville Police right away and gave them the information she had on the suspect. She also did some digging of her own.
"I went upstairs to my computer and typed his name into Facebook, and there he was, smiling back at me. So you know, the world isn't quite so anonymous," she said.
She says the Internet search confirmed what store employees initially thought. While Cookeville Police have not yet made an arrest, Cooper and her co-workers want something else.
"This is a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable art," she said. "We would we all about it if he would just bring the merchandise back and I say I messed up, I'm sorry, here have this back."
The shirts that were stolen are valued at about $70. They were designed by a 19-year-old artist, who is working his way through school at Tennessee Tech.
"Artwork is like an extension of someone," said Dra Summers, another artist and employee. "Stealing someone's art is like stealing a piece of them."
If the suspect does return the items, Cooper says they will not press charges.