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JEFFERSON COUNTY — One burglar learned the hard way on Wednesday not to wear flip-flops while breaking into cars in freezing temperatures.

The suspect, one of a band of burglars caught breaking into cars in Imperial, jumped into a getaway car while wearing flip-flops, but jumped out without them — or lost them soon thereafter — and then ran into a nearby woods, barefoot.

Deputies found his flip-flops nearby. “So we knew he was going to be getting cold,” Capt. Gary Higginbotham said.

When deputies arrested him and four others more than four hours later, the barefoot burglar’s feet were cut up so badly he couldn’t support his own weight, Higginbotham said.

It all started around 4 a.m., when residents in a subdivision off Old Antonia Road called police because they saw individuals breaking into cars on their home security cameras. Police found the group, whom they suspected were those caught on camera, hitting another subdivision nearby, Higginbotham said.

The suspects jumped into a car, which had been reported stolen out of Caseyville on Monday, and almost hit a deputy who was standing outside his car, Higginbotham said.

Deputies chased after the car for about a half-mile before it ran over spike strips laid by officers. The car stopped near Imperial Main Street and Old State Road, and three of the burglars ran into a wooded area — one of them without his flip-flops.

Deputies, at that time, didn’t know the whereabouts of the other two burglars.

Then, at 7:42 a.m. an elderly woman and her daughter found one of the suspects in their home about two miles away along Miller Road near Highway 61-67, Higginbotham said. Police got there just as the homeowner and a neighbor were pushing the suspect out the door, and arrested him.

“I guess he was a little cold because he walked into a house and sat on a bench near the kitchen table and then on the couch,” Higginbotham said.

At 8:28 a.m., police stopped a car for traffic violations by Interstate 55 and found the four remaining suspects, including the burglar with no shoes, along with two guns. The guns were reported stolen after a string of car break-ins Monday in Pevely, Higginbotham said.

Higginbotham said at least one of the suspects in Wednesday’s break-ins is suspected of similar crimes in the county. The morning’s arrests, he said, were a good start to slowing a string of recent break-ins.

“But we’re not done with it,” he said. “There’s more involved in this.”

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Higginbotham said thieves have told deputies that they are visiting Jefferson County more now because St. Louis residents remove their valuables and lock their cars.

“They drive around until they find nice houses with unlocked cars,” he said.

In some cases, thieves are using garage door openers to steal from attached garages, Higginbotham said.

“That’s just one unlocked door from your family,” he said.

Authorities announced charges Wednesday night against two of the suspects, both from St. Louis.

Jahniy Dowdy, 17, is charged with first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle, stealing a firearm and resisting arrest.

Raymon R Manley, 17, is charged with stealing a firearm and second-degree tampering with a motor vehicle.

Both are being held at the Jefferson County Jail on $100,000 cash-only bond.

Charges against a third suspect are expected Thursday morning.

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