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Athens police arrest alleged purse snatcher

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — A woman known only as the blond purse snatcher struck a second time in two days in Athens but erred when she tried to use a stolen credit card at a local store, police said.

Capt. Marty Bruce identified the woman as Kelly Diane Willard, 29, of 23533 Berzett Road, Athens.

Willard and a male accomplice allegedly were involved in snatching purses in parking lots at Wal-Mart and the Town Center, both on U.S. 72, Bruce said. Willard allegedly approached victims loading groceries into their vehicles and asked directions, and when the victims were distracted, grabbed their purses, Bruce said.

Theft at Wal-Mart

The first snatching occurred Feb. 28 at Wal-Mart, according to reports. The duo struck Wal-Mart again Sunday evening, Bruce said. Willard got into a pickup with a dark-haired white male.

On Monday, she allegedly snatched a purse at the Town Center and left in a truck.

Bruce said that later Tuesday Willard tried to use a credit card from the Town Center victim. Willard again left in a truck with a male driver.

Credit card rejected

Sheriff's Department Chief Investigator Stanley McNatt said a citizen at the Jiffy Foods convenience store on U.S. 72 at Lindsay Lane followed the duo after the store rejected that credit card. The citizen called law enforcement and gave directions. McNatt said deputy Donnie Johns stopped the vehicle on Sharp Road.

Athens Detective Dustin Lansford charged Willard with three counts of second-degree theft. Lansford also charged the driver, Willard's boyfriend, with an unrelated theft. Bruce identified the driver as Michael Eddie Harris, 47, of the same address as Willard.

Bruce said in the unrelated theft, Harris allegedly purchased a saw and charged it to Moran Carpets, his former employer. Police received that report Feb. 2.

"He's got warrants all over North Alabama," Bruce said. "A lot of agencies want him."

Bruce did not know what those charges are, but Athens police had an outstanding warrant for him for theft by deception, according to reports.

Police have not charged Harris in relation to the snatchings. Bruce said police are investigating whether Harris is the male accomplice who assisted Willard.

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