A little digging nets 2 dryer-theft suspects

Lane Hollenbeck, Hanahan police detective.

Using a combination of good old-fashioned shoe leather and a high-tech crime-fighting tool, a Hanahan police detective came up with two suspects in a recent string of laundry-room thefts.

After several apartment complexes in Hanahan reported that washing machines and dryers had been stolen, Detective Lane Hollenbeck began calling and visiting scrap-metal dealers, city police Lt. Michael Fowler said.

"She found one washing machine that was still whole and had not been scrapped yet," Fowler said. The serial number indicated it had been stolen from a North Charleston apartment complex.

The scrap-metal dealer provided Hollenbeck a license plate number, and she entered it into the Automated License Plate Recognition System. The system popped out a photograph taken on Remount Road that showed a washer in the bed of a pickup truck, Fowler said.

"That helped link everything together," Fowler said, praising Hollenbeck's tenacity. "She was persistent. Once she got some information, she kept digging and digging."

Hollenbeck put together her case and drew up warrants. On Sept. 21, a North Charleston police officer found a couple smoking pot in a parked pickup truck, Fowler said. When that officer checked for warrants on them, Hanahan's popped up, Fowler said.

Noel Rogers, 40, and Doris Bernhardt, 49, both of Robinson Street in Hanahan, now face charges from multiple jurisdictions.

In addition to drug-possession charges, North Charleston police accused them of stealing a washer from a laundry room at Spring House Apartments on St. Ives Road over the Labor Day weekend.

Bail was set at $30,000 for Bernhardt and $20,000 for Rogers on the charges filed by North Charleston.

On Wednesday, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office accused the pair of stealing a commercial washer on Sept. 14 from a the Ladson 24 Hour Laundry on U.S. Highway 78. They were each charged with petit larceny in that case, said Maj. Jim Brady, a sheriff's spokesman. Bail was set for each at $1,092.

Summerville police on Thursday charged each of them with eight counts of third-degree burglary, said police Capt. Jon Rogers. At a bond hearing in municipal court Thursday, a judge set total bail for each of them at $150,000, Rogers said.

The dryer thefts in Summerville occurred between Aug. 27 and Sept. 19, Rogers said. The couple were taken back to the Charleston County jail after the hearing in Summerville, Rogers said.

Hanahan has yet to file charges in the case, Fowler said. He said Rogers faces two counts of second-degree burglary and property crime enhancement. Bernhardt is facing three burglary charges and a possession of stolen goods charge, he said.

Bernhardt has a rap sheet going back to 1981, according the State Law Enforcement Division. In addition to numerous convictions for drug offenses, check law violations and driving under the influence and prostitution, she was sent to prison three times. In 1998, she got 270 days after being convicted of check fraud. In 2006, she was sentenced to two years in jail and three years probation after being convicted of forgery. In 2009, she got two five-year sentences after being convicted of forgery and credit-card fraud.

Rogers' criminal record goes back to 1988. He has multiple minor convictions for drug and alcohol offenses, as well passing fraudulent checks, and was first sent to prison in 1988 for grand larceny and strong-arm robbery. He has been sent to prison several times since, with the latest being a 15-year sentence he received for a burglary conviction in 1998. He was reportedly on probation in July when he was charged with a violation of probation, but information on the outcome of that case was not immediately available.