RIDGE MANOR, FL – On Tuesday, July 21, 2020 just after 7 a.m., the owners of Southern Harmony Cafe located at 34508 Cortez Boulevard in Ridge Manor called 911 to report a Commercial Burglary. The victims provided law enforcement with video surveillance from 10 p.m. the previous night of a man, later identified as James Ervin Dees, 37, breaking into a shed and removing several small hand tools. Another Commercial Burglary was also reported during the same timeframe at A&K Energy Construction, which is a short distance from the Southern Harmony Cafe.
The suspect broke a window to gain entry into a shed located on A&K Energy Construction property and removed a set of keys from the shed belonging to a 2017 Ford F-550 truck. Dees proceeded to drive the truck off of the property and it was eventually located abandoned off of Richloam Claysink Road, near Goat Lane, after Dees got the truck stuck in mud.
That same day, July 21, 2020 at 1:30 p.m., a woman entered Handy True Value Hardware located at 34486 Cortez Boulevard while leaving her vehicle running in the parking lot. Dees stole the vehicle and later used the woman’s stolen credit card to make purchases at a gas station in Sumter County.
Two days later on July 23, 2020, the owners of Southern Harmony Cafe called again to report a man burglarized their shed. This time the suspect stole multiple tools, a weed wacker, and a lawnmower. Once again, the suspect was caught on surveillance video stealing the items from the shed.
Investigators were able to connect the two incidents at Southern Harmony Cafe due to unique tattoos on the suspect’s forearms that were captured on video. In a conversation with Pasco Sheriff’s Office investigators regarding recent burglaries along the U.S. 3o1 corridor in Pasco County, Hernando County detectives identified a possible suspect in their investigations as James Dees.
Upon running a check on Dees’ criminal history, investigators determined Dees looked like the suspect in the surveillance video from both Southern Harmony Cafe burglaries. It was also learned that Dees had an active warrant out of Hillsborough County.
Surveillance video from the hardware store was also obtained that identified Dees as the individual who stole the woman’s vehicle from the hardware store’s parking lot. Additionally, surveillance video obtained from A&K Energy Construction showed Dees was the individual who burglarized a shed and stole a truck from the property.
Additional surveillance video was obtained from a gas station in Sumter County showing Dees using the woman’s stolen credit card. In all of the incidents reported, Dees was shown on video wearing the same clothing.
With the assistance of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, on Dees was located in Dade City and placed under arrest on active warrants and various crimes he committed in Pasco County. Once in custody, Dees provided a confession regarding the two Southern Harmony Cafe burglaries. He refused to cooperate with any of the additional investigations.
Dees was charged with three counts of burglary of a structure (with the enhancement of crossing county lines to commit a burglary and wearing a mask to commit a burglary), two counts of possession of burglary tools, grand theft auto and felony petit theft. Hi is currently being held at the Pasco County Jail on a no bond status.