ADAMS TWP — A suspected jewel thief on the lam for more than a year is in the Butler County Prison.
But it wasn’t dogged police work that led to the capture Monday. It was more dumb luck.
The suspect, Denell M. Penn, 28, of Monaca, Beaver County, did herself in when she showed up to pay a parking ticket, authorities said.
A clerk at District Judge Kim Hoots’ office in Wilkinsburg, Allegheny County, said when she ran Penn’s information through the court system’s computer, the 2011 warrant in Butler County popped up.
While Penn was detained at Hoots’ office, the clerk contacted court officials here, who in turn notified Adams Township police.
Police had been looking for Penn since September 2011, when they identified her as the suspected burglar of a home at Adams Pointe.
Investigators believe Penn made off with gold jewelry worth more than $16,000.
Adams Township police Chief Bill Westerman said two of his officers Monday morning traveled to Hoots’ office and returned here with the defendant.
District Judge Wayne Seibel later arraigned Penn on charges of burglary and theft, both felonies, and placed her in the county prison on $1,000 bail.
A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 6.
Police suspect Penn took the jewelry from Erika McCullough’s house on or about July 15, 2011, according to court documents.
McCullough was out of town then and a friend was watching the house. The victim’s friend’s invited the suspect over to visit.
Police suspect that while visiting, Penn went through the house and took numerous pieces of jewelry valued at a combined valued at a combined $16,871.
McCullough discovered the items missing when she returned home. Most of the stolen jewelry was tracked to a pawn shop at the Beaver Valley Mall, investigators said.
Receipts showed the store paid $580 in cash to Eileen Bibbee for the sale of five bracelets, two necklaces, a set of earrings and a diamond ring.
Bibbee, 32, of Monaca accompanied Penn to the shop since the defendant did not have valid identification that would allow her to sell the items, documents said.
Police recovered all of McCullough’s jewelry sold at the pawn shop. A later appraisal of those same items found they are worth $14,543,
Two other stolen pieces, a diamond tennis bracelet and a gold bracelet, were not immediately recovered and were believed missing, police said.
Adams Township police on Sept. 22, 2011, obtained an arrest warrant for Penn on charges in the break-in and theft.
Center Township police in Beaver County, where the pawn shop is located, meanwhile, in August 2011 charged Bibbee in connection with the case.
In December, court records showed, she pleaded no contest to a felony count of receiving stolen property. She was sentenced to 2 years’ probation.