Suspected Tulsa Zoo, Park Burglar Arrested

Thursday, April 9th 2009, 5:15 pm
By: News On 6

By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa police have arrested a man accused of stealing purses and credit cards.

Maurice Pettus, 48, is suspected of waiting in the parking lots of parks and the Tulsa Zoo and watching with binoculars as unsuspecting victims left their cars and their valuables inside.

Anna Rubio's memory of her son's first soccer practice is tainted by theft. Her purse was stolen out of her car in broad daylight.

"I made it a point to go to the other side of the car to put my purse down and put my sweater over it," she said. "I have a feeling maybe he was watching me. It wasn't visible from walking by and looking at it.

"He knew what he wanted, and he went straight for it.

Rubio wasn't the only victim. Tennis players at Hicks Park told detectives they saw Pettus breaking into a car. They say he threw away a trash bag filled with purses after the tennis players chased after him. They wrote down his vehicle description, and police later took him into custody.

Police recovered 10 credit cards from 10 victims. They say Pettus didn't waste anytime using the stolen plastic.

"That's generally the MO of this type of burglar," Sgt. Brandon Watkins said. "They'll steal a credit card and they'll get out and start using them immediately before you have a chance to report them as stolen.

Detectives say Pettus spent more than $500 on Rubio's credit card. But she's learned that hiding her purse out of sight doesn't mean it's out of mind.

"I've definitely changed my habits now," Rubio said. "You won't see me carry a purse much anymore."

Pettus has a history with theft and larceny. He was booked into jail early Friday on 10 counts of knowingly concealing stolen property in the latest case.

The moral is to not make a big show of hiding your valuables. Put them in your trunk before you leave home.