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Belleville mayor’s wife thwarts criminals

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BELLEVILLE, IL (KTVI)-- An accused purse snatcher remained in the St. Clair County Jail Tuesday night.

Belleville police were “closing in” on three more suspects.

Police said the victim turned out to be the mayor’s wife, Rita Eckert; she wasn’t’ about to let them get away with it.

She didn't tackle or even confront the suspects.  But she did chase them, keep them in her sight and draw a lot of attention to the crime.

She was in the process of loading up her personal van and locking up the work van, while closing her floral shop at 2nd & Main Sunday night.  She thought nothing of it when suspect Keifer Childress, 21, and 3 others walked by.

“One of them actually even greeted me, ‘how’s it going?’” she said.

She was locking up the work van.  Her personal van was parked behind it.  The hatch on her personal van up, the driver’s side door unlocked.

“One of them opened the door, reached in, grabbed my purse and I yelled, ‘what are you doing!’”

They were stealing her purse.  She chased them between buildings, around the corner, down a few blocks, out to the Square and beyond.

“I went waving may hands like this,” she demonstrated.

She was also calling her husband.

Passersby from Waterloo saw her waving and the suspect’s running.  They started tracking the suspects and called 911.

The mayor was nearby, just leaving Mariachi’s restaurant.

“I said, ‘which way are you going?” Mayor Mark Eckert said, recalling the phone conversation with his wife.  “She said, ‘they’re right now going south of the Square.’ I was coming right at them.  I looked over a block and saw them, saw 3 of the 4, running.”

Police said they caught Childress with Mrs. Eckert’s credit cards and driver’s license in his pocket; officers found her purse the next day, not too far away.

“I’m very proud of her.  It was risky,” Mayor Eckert said.

“I think my real thought was that, ‘I’m just going to see which way they go,’” his wife said.

“It sends a message I think that people work together in this town.  We’re not going to tolerate wrongdoing…I think there’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing these people didn’t get away with it,” the mayor said.

Childress is charged with burglary; bail set at $30,000.  Police said they have strong leads on the other 3 suspects.

Email: Andy.Banker@tvstl.com

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