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Suspect in Hernando, Pasco burglaries caught trying to swim to freedom

Published Dec. 27, 2012

WEEKI WACHEE — A string of residential burglaries across Hernando and Pasco counties may have come to an end late last week — with a failed attempt at the backstroke.

On Friday, Hernando County sheriff's deputies arrested 21-year-old Chelsea Lane of New Port Richey and a 41-year-old Brooksville accomplice after Lane was interrupted as she tried to break into a home in the 6400 block Richard Drive, according to deputies.

Caught in the act by the homeowner, Lane fled.

The homeowner gave chase, following her north toward a canal off the Weeki Wachee River, deputies said.

In an attempt to avoid being caught, she jumped into the canal and tried to backstroke to the other side.

There, authorities were waiting to take her into custody.

Lane is accused of burglarizing six homes in Hernando County, and she is a suspect in several burglaries in Pasco County that happened Dec. 20, the Sheriff's Office said. Richard Leach, who authorities said helped pawn the stolen goods and acted as a getaway driver, faces charges in four burglaries.

Reports of residential burglaries began coming in to the Hernando Sheriff's Office in early November and primarily involved homes along Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill.

People described seeing a woman. Some also saw a man. Some saw a green vehicle.

On Friday, deputies got their break.

Once apprehended, Lane admitted to committing numerous burglaries in the Spring Hill area, deputies said. She said the robberies took place in the daytime and that she and Leach targeted jewelry.

The pair would pawn the stolen goods and use the money for drugs, she said.

She told detectives they would break in through a sliding-glass door or a window.

The Sheriff's Office determined that Lane owned a green 1999 Pontiac Grand Am, matching the description provided in some of the burglaries. Pasco County authorities found the vehicle and impounded it.

Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis praised the alert resident, who was not named.

Lane, who was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on Friday night and remained there Wednesday, faces charges in six Hernando burglaries. Her bail was set at $8,000.

Leach was arrested in connection with four Hernando burglaries and was being held Wednesday in lieu of $5,000 bail. Deputies said he admitted to being involved with Lane and the criminal activity. He also admitted to pawning some of the stolen jewelry, they said.

The investigation is ongoing.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. Tweet him @HernandoTimes.

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