Robbery Suspects Arrested

Key West Police Detective this week solved a rash of vicious robberies over the past two weeks by arresting a Key West couple. Thomas Jesse Hillman, 33, and Cheryl Hillman, 40, are in custody for robbing three women violently and stealing another woman’s purse.

The first incident took place just after 4 a.m. on June 16.  The 51 year old victim was walking home from Don’s Place on Truman Ave. when a man asked her for directions then grabbed her purse. She hung on to the straps, even while he jumped into a car and drove off, dragging the victim for several feet. The man got away with the purse, and the victim was left with road rash and bruises on her face and body. Medics treated her at the scene and an officer drove her home.

Two days later a 28 year old woman told police that a man approached her for a cigarette while she was walking home in Old Town around 2:30 in the morning. She turned around, and the man punched her in the face, knocked her to the ground, and stole her purse. She was treated at Lower Keys Medical Center.

The third victim was riding a scooter at about 3:30 in the morning of June 27. She stopped at the intersection of Southard and White streets. As she waited for the light to change, a truck pulled up alongside of her, and a woman in the truck grabbed her purse out of the scooter’s basket. The truck sped off.

In the most recent incident, which occurred Tuesday, a 23 year old woman was punched in the face, knocked to the ground, and kicked in the face before her purse was snatched from her grasp. She had been walking near the Key West Library just before 4 in the morning when a car pulled up with the couple inside. She had seen them moments earlier in front of a nearby pizza restaurant. The man got out, attacked the victim, then took her purse back into the car and fled. The victim was transported to Lower Keys Medical Center. The extensive facial injuries she sustained are going to require surgery.

Detectives were able to identify suspects by viewing videos showing the couple using stolen credit cards. Detectives conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle that matched the vehicle description, which led to arrest of the Hillmans.

After the arrest, Thomas Hillman and Cheryl Hillman admitted to the robberies. The stolen property was found in the couple’s home, along with drugs and drug paraphernalia. The suspects both admitted to using drugs. Cheryl Hillman told detectives that everything began two or three weeks ago when her husband started taking oxycodone and other pills.

“This case is another example of the correlation between the illegal use of prescription drugs and crime. And in this case, violent crime,” said Key West Police Chief Donie Lee. “We need to do all we can to get these drugs off the streets.”

Both Hillmans were charged with three counts of felony robbery, numerous felony counts of the fraudulent use of credit cards, as well as the possession and use of cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Although no gun was used during the robberies, Thomas Hillman faces an added charge of possession of a firearm by a felon because he is a convicted felon and a gun was found at his house.

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