Utahns rally around Girl Scouts who lost cash from cookie sales to thief
Taylorsville Girl Scout Kennedi Leon was selling cookies Saturday outside a Walmart when a man walked up and stole her cash box.
"He was looking at the Thin Mints," Kennedi, 11, said Monday. "He took out his wallet and then he just grabbed the money."
Kennedi said the man jumped into a car and drove off. She was too shocked to do anything.
The crime happened about 4 p.m. at the Walmart at 5469 S. Redwood Road (1700 West). Four Girl Scouts and two adult leaders from Troop 2532 were working at two cookie booths when the thief struck. According to police, he escaped in a Chevy Cavalier driven by a slim blond woman.
Unified Police detective Ken Hansen reported that police had multiple investigators working the case. Hansen said one strong lead had failed to produce an arrest Monday and investigators hoped the public could offer new information.
Police have gathered detailed eyewitness accounts from the girls, who got a good look at the suspect as he feigned interest in buying cookies. Kennedi said Monday that the man had a buzz cut and was wearing a white shirt and baggy pants. A large tattoo covered his left arm.
Troop leader Jeanette Williams believes the man seemed to have been planning the theft all along. The girls saw him drive around the parking lot several times, Williams said, and apparently he had been casing the area for a half an hour. When he did finally strike, he reached across the table and grabbed the cash box before anyone knew what to do. Williams said some of the girls were shaken up by the encounter.
She also said the Scouts have been selling cookies in that spot for five years and never had anything remotely similar happen.
As police hunted for the thief Monday, the community rallied. Taylorsville Mayor Jerry Rechtenbach issued a statement inviting the Scouts to sell their cookies Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Hall, 2600 W. 5400 South. Rechtenbach's statement called the crime "deplorable" and noted that community members have asked for a way to support the girls.
"We've had residents ask what they can do to help these Girl Scouts," the statement said, "and thought this would be a great way to allow our community to rally around them."
The troop plans to accept the mayor's offer. The troop also received promises of additional financial support Monday from others in the community, Williams said.
Annie Cutler, communications manager for the Girl Scouts of Utah, said each box of cookies costs $3.50, of which $2.32 goes back into local scouting. The money can be used for summer camps, field trips or other activities. Cutler said her organization was stunned that someone would steal from young girls who are working hard and learning valuable life skills.
Police say the suspect's car is teal or green. The car's wheels have factory rims. Police obtained a picture of the car from video taken by a Walmart surveillance camera about the time of the theft, according to a news release.
The suspect is described as a white man in his 20s, about 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said the man has a shaved head and a tattoo that covers most of his left arm.
Hoyal said anyone selling cookies or other goods should remember to keep the cash box out of sight and leave only small amounts of money inside.
Anyone with information about the robbery may contact UPD at 801-743-7075.
If you want to help
To donate to the Girl Scouts of Utah, visit gsutah.org or text "GSUDONATE" to 27299 to be directed to a donation page. Zions Bank also is accepting donations under the name Girl Scouts of Utah Troop 2532. Girl Scout leaders also encourage interested people to buy cookies, as most of the proceeds stay with local troops.