Charges dismissed against Bluffton man in business break-in

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Charges dismissed against Bluffton man in business break-in

Published Tuesday, December 6, 2011   |  585 Words  |  

Charges against a Bluffton man in connection with a hair salon break-in last month have been dropped after DNA evidence excluded him, according to authorities.

Robert Christopher Bush, 31, had been charged with second-degree burglary and petit theft in connection to a break-in at Attractive Hair Studio at Bluffton Park Crescent. The charges were dismissed Thursday by Bluffton police after a DNA test showed evidence from a hat dropped by the suspect did not match Bush's genetic makeup, according to Police Chief David McAllister.

"It all came down to the physical evidence of the DNA on the hat," McAllister said Tuesday.

Bush came under suspicion Nov. 2, when an officer on patrol at about 9:45 p.m. spotted a man on a bicycle leaving the salon's strip mall with a flat-screen TV perched on the handlebars. As the officer pulled up to him, the man dropped the TV, got off the bike and ran. He also dropped a T-shirt and a hat, McAllister said.

Police couldn't find him, but his description matched Bush, who was later identified by the officer, according to a police report.

Police sent the hat to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office Forensics and DNA Lab for testing and asked the Sheriff's Office to rush the test.

It came back about a month later, McAllister said. The DNA didn't match Bush's, so police dismissed the charges.

"I have to give credit to the officers who collected the DNA and to the Sheriff's Office DNA lab for getting us the results so quickly. That speed is almost unheard-of in other parts of the country," McAllister said.

McAllister said Tuesday, however, that police have other evidence that points to Bush as a suspect in the break-in and that the investigation is not over.

He said investigators believed Bush was connected to other recent break-ins, but he couldn't have been responsible for thefts since Nov. 3 because he has been in the county jail on unrelated drug and traffic warrants.

At least 30 similar break-ins have occurred since early October at businesses in Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island. Sheriff's and Bluffton police investigators believe they might be related.

At the hair salon, a rear window was broken, and a Sylvania flat-screen TV like the one the man on the bike had was missing, the police report said. Police discovered a footprint at the scene from a Nike athletic shoe that they later found matched the tread pattern and size of a pair of shoes at Bush's home, McAllister said.

Police also relied on the identification by the arresting officer. Stories from friends who provided alibis for Bush were also "weak," he said.

"We had enough probable cause, and with all the other evidence, our hope was that if the charge took him out of the picture, the burglaries would slow down or stop, but they didn't," he said.

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