Intruder confesses to Homosassa burglaries

A Citrus deputy recognized the man when he was arrested on robbery charges in Pasco.

Published January 13, 2007

HOMOSASSA - Citrus detectives thought the story sounded all too familiar.

A man robs a Subway restaurant in Pasco County after crawling through a vent on the roof. The same man later attempts to rob a Ker's WingHouse by again climbing on the roof, crawling down a grease pipe and then prying open the cash register, but when he can't, he sets off the alarm.

The story, which was reported Tuesday in the St. Petersburg Times, also appeared on the Web site for cable news channel Bay News 9. The story identified 20-year-old Charles Grant III of New Port Richey as the suspect. Footage showed him covered in chicken grease.

A Citrus deputy who was trolling the site for news about the upcoming trial of murder suspect John Couey alerted a detective with his agency who has been trying to solve three restaurant break-ins in Homosassa.

"Boy, this sounds very close to the burglaries we had in Homosassa," the deputy said when he read the story, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney.

Since late November, sheriff's Detective Steve Farkas has been investigating two burglaries at Margueritagrill and one at Yulee's Cafe.

In two of the three break-ins, the thief slipped into the restaurant by crawling through a vent on the roof. He made off with about $9,000 total in cash, the owners said.

On Tuesday, Farkas went to Land O'Lakes and questioned Grant at the jail. The detective recognized Grant from a surveillance tape at Margaritagrill.

At first reluctant, Grant eventually admitted he had broken into the restaurants in Homosassa, the detective said.

According to Tierney, Grant told Farkas that he used the money for living expenses such as gas and food. But mainly he used the money to buy crack cocaine, Tierney said.

In an interview with the Times, Grant's parents said their son grew up in a stable home but started using cocaine at 17. He has been arrested nearly a dozen times.

Grant is held in Pasco County with bail set at $50,000.

After Pasco County releases him, Grant will face similar charges in Citrus, which include three counts of burglary, two counts of grand theft, one count of felony vandalism and one count of petit theft.

Thursday, the owners of both restaurants in Homosassa reacted to the news of Grant's arrest with a mix of anger and relief.

Tommy Piliouras, the owner of Margueritagrill, said he wants the Sheriff's Office to bring Grant over to his restaurant for a "30-minute lunch."

"He would need assistance leaving my restaurant," he said. "Because I would break both his legs."

The owner was fuming after the burglary, in which he lost almost $9,000 in tips and donations that go to support the troops overseas.

Owner Holly Ball of Yulee's Cafe said the thief got away with $60 from the cash register. But he also stole her sense of security.

After 14 years, she is closing down her restaurant in part because she doesn't feel safe anymore. Since the Nov. 28 burglary, when she found the thief breaking into her cash register, she hasn't been able to got to the restaurant alone.

"It's a horrible feeling to know someone has broken into your restaurant," she said.

Eddy Ramirez can be reached at eramirez@sptimes.com or 860-7305.