Intruder's slick ways leave greasy smudges

The parents of Charles Grant III, 20, blame his troubles on a raging cocaine addiction since age 17.

Published January 9, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - Strange sounds came from the kitchen. Something moved overhead. Then, at the Subway restaurant on the east end of Ridge Road, a shirtless man burst through the ceiling and fell 10 feet to the clay-tile floor.

The man got up, dazed, swearing about sons and mothers. One clerk asked him if he was all right. One thought he was a construction worker. But it was after 8 p.m. on Sunday. The man strolled past the walk-in freezer, toward the trays of salami and banana peppers, right hand in his jeans pocket.

"Just give me the money, man," he said.

Thus began one of the more peculiar episodes in the annals of Pasco County property crime. Authorities said it ended about eight hours later, 7 miles away, with the same shirtless man wearing handcuffs and slathered in chicken grease.

The accused is Charles Grant III, 20. His parents blame his troubles on cocaine.

On Monday, they told the Times that he grew up in a stable middle-class home in New Port Richey, loved basketball and football, made a B average at River Ridge High School. But around age 17, someone introduced him to cocaine, and the rest is written in state records.

Grant has been arrested nearly a dozen times in Florida since his 17th birthday, including at least four separate cocaine-possession charges. Most other charges involve stealing in some form or another.

"He's got a drug problem," said his father, Charles Grant Jr. "And it's driving him to do bad things."

So there he was at Subway, demanding the contents of the cash register, according to a sheriff's incident report. The 17-year-old clerks gave it to him, fearing he was armed, and he fled out the back door. Store owner Chris Cook said he made off with about $170 in cash.

Property Crimes Detective Michelle March had been following Grant's work. She would later charge him with burglarizing Bare Assets, a strip club in Holiday, on Christmas Day. When she showed the Subway clerks a photo lineup, one of them identified Grant.

But by the time she caught up with him that night at a motel off U.S. 19, authorities say, he had already been to the nearby Ker's WingHouse, climbed on the roof, crawled down a pipe designed to capture grease from frying chicken, tried to break into the cash register, failed, set off the alarm, and left greasy smudge marks all over.

"I've been in the restaurant industry for over 10 years," said WingHouse regional manager Chris Jones, "and I've never heard of anything like this."

Footage from Grant's arrest about 4 a.m. Monday shows his hair slick with grease, his bare back sooty and shiny.

He was charged with two counts of burglary, one of robbery and one of forging checks. He was held at the Land O'Lakes jail on Monday afternoon in lieu of $50,000 bail.

In the Subway robbery, investigators said he'd climbed on the roof and crawled down an air vent. Store owner Cook stood in the shop Monday, looking up at the broken ceiling and wondering what Grant had been thinking.

Heavy cocaine use can detach users from reality.

If he wanted to lurk up there until the place closed, what made him think the flimsy drop-ceiling framework would bear 160 pounds?

And if he wanted to rob the place, he could have walked in through the front door.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.