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Officers with the Chiefland Police Department said they nabbed a suspected newspaper thief in the act of stealing papers from the Chiefland Citizen rack in front of the Post Office on Jan. 23.
Rita Lynn McMillen, 51, of Trenton was charged with petit theft.
This particular newspaper rack had fallen prey for the past three months, according to records.
McMillen confessed to pilfering papers from newspaper racks at the Post Office and the CVS drug store, police said. The total loss to the newspaper company from thefts at those racks was $259 over the past few months.
In the Bell's parking lot, police took inventory of the 50 papers they reported seeing her pinch from the Post Office and the 10 other copies she allegedly purloined from CVS.
The CPD was contacted to help capture the thief after flyers were placed in newspapers in the Post Office rack, which offered a $5 reward to any person who bought one of those newspapers from a place other than that rack. When that didn't work, the newspaper asked for help from the CPD.
"Can I ask why you took the papers?" Chiefland Citizen Circulation Manager Kandi Long asked McMillen.
The suspected thief said she lines her floor with them because she has six dogs that are not housebroken.
"If you would have read one of those papers you stole," Long said, "you would have seen we give away end rolls to people who ask for them when they are available. People use them to line bird cages."
End rolls are the remnants of paper fed into the large newspaper presses at the Chiefland printing plant. Long said she feels sorry for the woman with so many untrained dogs.
"But she took it on herself to steal papers," Long said. "If you do something bad, then you have to pay for it. If it doesn't catch up with you with the law, then it will catch up with you with God."
CPD Chief Robert Douglas saw her take the papers from the box at the Post Office and he followed her as she drove a 1995 Mercury Marquis to Bell's Restaurant, where he confronted her. CPD Det. Sgt. Chris Barwick arrested her.
"Any kind of theft to me is unacceptable," Douglas said, "newspapers or a brand new car. As benevolent as people are in this city, all anyone has to do is to ask for help and they will receive it."
McMillen remained in the Levy County Jail on Jan. 24 with a bond set at $1,500, according to records.
McMillen is not the only person who has been arrested for stealing newspapers from racks in Levy County.
Elijah Williams, 78, of Bronson filched newspapers from the Gainesville Sun and Chiefland Citizen boxes, according to an arrest report by the Levy County Sheriff's Office.
Williams was arrested Aug. 30, 2007 for grand theft because the Gainesville Sun reported a loss of $720 over an 18-week period from a box at the Bronson Post Office. The Chiefland Citizen loss from boxes in the same place was $40.
As of Jan. 24, the State Attorney's Office had not filed a case against Williams for his alleged theft. State Attorney Bill Cervone said a witness saw this defendant take a number of Chiefland Citizen papers, but Cervone said he does not know how to prove to the exclusion of reasonable doubt anything beyond that fact.