SMASH AND GRAB: Suspect hit two Chocowinity businesses before capture

Published 8:11 pm Thursday, May 3, 2018

CHOCOWINITY — Two Chocowinity businesses were the targets of robberies Wednesday, as a man armed with a plastic gun attempted to rob the Chocowinity Swift Shop after stealing a cash register from the Fountain Lodge.

As a result, Steven Haywood Martin, 38, of Blounts Creek, faces charges of attempted common law robbery, felony breaking and entering and felony larceny after breaking and entering.

Steven Haywood Martin

According to Chocowinity Police Department Officer Ralph Whitehurst, Martin entered the Fountain Lodge while general manager Karen Garris and her husband were out to lunch. Surveillance footage at the motel shows Martin putting on gloves, smashing a plate glass window and pulling the entire cash register through the opening.

“He had no idea he was on video here,” Garris said. “The video was hid behind his head.”

According to Garris, Martin made off with approximately $30.

After raiding the register beside the motel, Martin travelled on foot to the Chocowinity Swift Shop. According to a press release from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Beaufort County emergency communications received a report of an attempted armed robbery from the convenience store at approximately 12:30 p.m.

The release stated the clerk on duty reported that a man entered the store brandishing a plastic gun and demanded money. After the clerk refused to comply with his demands, the suspect fled the store on foot.

CRIME DOESN’T PAY: Police say Steven Martin unsuccessfully attempted to rob the Chocowinity Swift Shop with a plastic gun on Wednesday after stealing a cash register from the Fountain Lodge. According to the motel manager, he made off with $30 from the till. (Matt Debnam/Daily News)

According to the release, 10 minutes later, a second call came in to communications reporting a break-in at the Fountain Lodge. Upon returning from lunch, Garris called and reported that someone had broken into the motel office and taken the register.

While deputies responded to the call at Fountain Lodge, Whitehurst and a BCSO deputy spotted the suspect in the area of the Chocowinity Sports Complex and detained him for questioning.

“He left the Choco Mart and dropped some clothing items he had on in a trash can in front of one of the residences between there and the softball complex,” Whitehurst said.

BCSO deputies assisted the CPD in gathering statements from the store clerk and witnesses in the area, recovering physical evidence such as the outer clothing, gloves and plastic gun used at the Chocowinity Swift Shop and locating the stolen cash register.

According to the release, because of the close proximity to the Chocowinity Middle School, deputies also responded there. The school was placed in a modified lockdown, which lasted only a few minutes.

“He made mention that he had two kids at the house, that he didn’t have any money, and that he was trying to support them, and that he had made a big mistake,” Whitehurst said.

For Garris, the incident hit close to home; she and her husband live in an apartment behind the motel office.

According to Garris, she and her husband actually encountered Martin at the Choco Mart on U.S. Highway 17 prior to the theft at the motel, saying he was acting suspicious. She also learned that Martin visited the Chocowinity Post Office on the way to the Swift Shop. As a result of the robbery, Garris says the motel will be upgrading its security.

“I don’t feel safe anymore,” Garris said. “I’ve been here 12 years, and I’ve never had a worry in the world until this happened. Now I realize how crazy the world is getting, and I don’t feel safe, so we’re going to make some major changes.”