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Hamilton, AL 35570

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Cashier arrested after attempted heist

Cashier arrested after attempted heist


Kristy Otts


Earnest Harrington

Article contributed by The Journal Record

By Michael E Palmer

WINFIELD - An investigation into an armed robbery led to the arrest of a Hamilton man and a Winfield store clerk on theft of property charges, the Winfield Police Department reported last week.

Lt. Rusty Hulsey of the Winfield PD reported that on Wednesday, March 6, at about 3:15 a.m. officers received a call that an armed robbery had occurred at the Moore’s B&B Station located at Bankhead Highway and Alabama State Highway 129.

The responding officers called Hulsey to the scene whereupon he began reviewing the store’s closed circuit security video. Hulsey said the video showed a male entering the store with his hand in his pocket. “He had his hand in his right pocket pointed out,” Hulsey said. The man never brandished a gun Hulsey said. “It could have been a finger, for all we know.”

The video showed the clerk hand over a bag of money and money from the register, Hulsey said.

Hulsey also said the video showed the cashier speaking on the phone minutes before the robbery took place. During the investigation, Hulsey discovered that the call log data to match those phone calls had been deleted from the phone.

Hulsey said he held the cashier’s phone as evidence based on the fact that she had deleted calls that he knew by video she had made.
“Based on the video, I was suspicious of what she was reporting at that time,” Hulsey said.

 Hulsey said after 10 minutes of investigating, the cashier, Kristy Otts, refused to answer any more questions and requested a lawyer. 
Hulsey obtained a search warrant for the phone and delivered it to the Electronic Crimes Task Force in Tuscaloosa on the University of Alabama campus.

“We hooked it to a software called GrayKey that allows investigators to bypass pass-codes,” Hulsey said. “We were able to pull off the incoming and outgoing call-log during the night from the time she went to work to the time it happened.”

Hulsey said Otts had called or received a call from the same cell number 12 times and through the course of the investigation determined the cell number belonged to Earnest Jerome Harrington of Hamilton.

Hulsey said that he obtained a search warrant for Harrington’s phone and that electronic data and witness statements placed Harrington at the station at the time the incident took place.

Hulsey said he obtained a search warrant for Harrington’s residence in Hamilton and during the search discovered 81 grams of marijuana, 14 grams of meth, and hydrocodone pills.

Hulsey said a total of $2,543.50 was stolen from the store, none of which was recovered.

Harrington, 36, was arrested on Monday, March 11, for first-degree theft of property, first-degree possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, three counts of possession of a controlled substance, trafficking, possession of a firearm by a forbidden person and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and was released on Friday, March 15, from the Marion County Jail in Hamilton on a $340,000 bond.

Kristy Otts, 35, Winfield, was arrested on Tuesday, March 12, for first-degree theft of property and filing a false report and remains in the county jail on a $6,000 bond.

Harrington could not be charged with armed robbery because there must be an unwilling victim, Hulsey said, adding, “She was willing.”
Hulsey said he wanted thank the Hamilton Police Department, the Marion county Sheriff’s Office and other agents with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Drug Task Force Region E.

Winfield Police chief Brett Burleson commended Hulsey. “He did an outstanding job on this case. It was a lot of background work that he performed to obtain the warrant to search Harrington’s home,” Burleson said.

Burleson said he doesn’t recommend any cashiers try the two suspects’ alleged heist in the future.

“We’ve had a couple different incidences like this at convenience stores, but a majority of them have come back as being inside jobs. There’s better ways to make money, much better than this. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of heartache. It cost (Otts) her job and now she’s in jail.”

(When a defendant is charged with a crime, the charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.)

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