5 indicted in $4 million Wilmington jewelry store robbery

11:17 PM, Feb 21, 2014   |    comments
Jim Stein with the Liberty Bell Ruby, a $2 million stone carved into the shape of an eagle wrapped over the Liberty Bell, complete with the bell's crack and studded with diamonds, in 2010. (Photo: William Bretzge, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal)
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(USA Today)-- WILMINGTON, Del. -- Federal prosecutors have charged five men with a brazen smash-and-grab robbery that netted $4.4 million worth of gold, diamonds, other precious gems and a $2 million ruby sculpture from a Wilmington jewelry store in 2011.

The five men, identified in a December indictment released Thursday after the final suspect was taken into custody, are Darrell "Blue" Williams, David "Dawoo" Story, Rufus "Alonzo Nowell" Lawson, Willie Hawkins Smith and Jackie Howard. All but Howard, who was charged in federal court in Pennsylvania, were charged in the U.S. District Court of Delaware.

No other information about the suspects, including where they live and where they are being held, was released.

The robbery occurred at Stuart Kingston Jewelers on Nov. 1, 2011. The three bandits, each of whom wore a mask and one of whom brandished a gun, tied up four employees, then used hammers to smash glass cases and take the jewels. Among the gems taken was the Liberty Bell Ruby, a rare 5-inch stone made from the largest mined ruby in the world.

Jim Stein, the store's owner, said after the heist that he was trying to broker a deal to help the California owners sell the one-of-a-kind ruby to a philanthropist who would donate it to the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.

None of the jewels has been recovered, officials said.

The crime had been featured on "America's Most Wanted" in February 2012. Stein later offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the men.

Police and employees interviewed by The News Journal offered this blow-by-blow account two months after the heist:

A man appeared at the door to be buzzed into the store and once a receptionist allowed him in he pulled out a gun and held the door open for three other men.

Once inside, they bound the employees with zip-ties and duct tape, forced them to lie on the floor, smashed the cases and scooped out hundreds of valuable pieces -- necklaces, earrings, rings and other items made of diamonds, platinum, gold, sapphires, emeralds and rubies. They didn't touch the less expensive silver, pearl or other semi-precious stones, said office manager Jamie Stein, one of the four employees who were tied up.

They forced Stein's son Edward to open the vault where the Liberty Bell and other expensive pieces were stored. The ruby was sculpted into the shape of the Liberty Bell guarded by a bald eagle and bedecked with 50 diamonds and was featured in a November 2010 story in The News Journal, which Stein said he believed may have motivated the thieves.

The ruby was created in 1976 for Kazanjian Brothers jewelry company in Beverly Hills, Calif., by sculptor Alfonso de Vivanco for the U.S. bicentennial.

One of the bound employees, gold buyer Dan McGrath, recalled that the crime "happened so fast, I didn't have time to get nervous about it."

The thieves fled in a rental truck with stolen New York license plates north on Interstate 95 toward Chester, Pa. A witness to the crime followed the truck at 100 mph in his Mercedes sedan, speaking to a 911 operator much of the way. He backed off when the suspects opened the rear door of the truck and pointed a gun at his car.

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