An 18-year-old Beaufort man was charged Wednesday in connection with a series of recent car break-ins on Lady's Island.
Jeremy Walter Gilliland turned himself in at the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday morning and faces 17 counts of breaking into a motor vehicle. Each charge is a felony and carries bail of $5,000.
Early Sunday, a Spanish Moss resident was leaving home for a run when he discovered Gilliland rummaging through his car, according to Sgt. Robin McIntosh. The suspect ran, but deputies located him nearby and arrested him, McIntosh said.
Gilliland was released on bond from the Beaufort County Detention Center on Monday. Investigators then connected him to additional break-ins in the neighborhoods of Spanish Moss, Southern Magnolia and Marsh Hawk Plantation, according to McIntosh. He was again jailed, then released on bond on Wednesday.
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The arrest comes just a few weeks after a spate of break-ins in Beaufort. On Sept. 15 and 16, nearly 40 cars were broken into, with more than $4,000 worth of property stolen, in the Battery Point neighborhood. Twenty other vehicles were burglarized in Beaufort in September.
An investigation into the Battery Point incidents continues, and the Beaufort Police Department has not identified any suspects or made any arrests, said Cpl. Hope Able.
All of the mid-September break-ins in Beaufort involved unlocked vehicles, according to police reports.
Gilliland also reportedly entered only unlocked vehicles, stealing a variety of property, including cash and small electronics, McIntosh said.
"We just ask the public that they do lock the doors, and if they have any valuables in the vehicles, to put them in a secure place where they're not visible," Able said.
The Sheriff's Office and the county have made several public service announcements encouraging this behavior, but people continue to leave their cars unlocked, said McIntosh.
"I can't really speculate on why people choose to leave their vehicles unsecured," she wrote in an email. "Obviously it is a personal choice that may have undesirable consequences, but it is still an individual's choice to make."
Forensic analysis from the Lady's Island break-ins continues, and Gilliland could face additional charges, she said.
Officers do not believe he was working independently but have no other suspects at this time, according to McIntosh.
Anyone with information can call Cpl. A. Zsamar at 843-255-3408 or Crime Stoppers at 888-274-6372.
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.