DISCOVERY BAY — Four suspected thieves were arrested after allegedly robbing Fat Smitty’s of some of its iconic charitable dollars that line the restaurants walls and ceiling.
They were taken into custody early Thursday morning, mere minutes after the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office received the notification of the security alarm going off at Fat Smitty’s at 282624 U.S. Highway 101 at about 1:55 a.m.
“It didn’t take a detective to see that the inscribed dollar bills still protruding from the pockets of the suspects was evidence of their crime,” said JCSO’s Facebook post.
Thinking the burglary might be connected to an earlier one in which money was traced to Kitsap County, Sgt. Ryan Menday suspected that the thieves were headed that way, so he drove toward state Highway 104 as a precaution, said Sgt. Brett Anglin.
Menday encountered only one vehicle on the highway at that time. When the patrol car came within sight, the car turned off onto a residential street, Anglin said.
Menday pulled the vehicle over at about 2:03 a.m. and when he approached it, he noticed that the four suspects matched the descriptions provided by deputies who were viewing the surveillance video footage — as well as the dollar bills, which bore signatures, bulging from their pockets, Anglin said.
All four are from Kitsap County. They were booked into the Jefferson County Jail.
• Spencer Aaron Schenk, 25, and Daniel Richard Schwartz, 25, booked for burglary 2, a class B felony, theft 3-from building, a gross misdemeanor, and malicious mischief 3, a gross misdemeanor.
• Michael Duwane Smith, 34, booked for the same as Schenk and Schwartz, with the addition of driving with a suspended license.
• Michelle L. Witmarsh, 28, was also arrested at this time, but she had a felony warrant and by Friday morning Anglin believed that she was transferred to another facility and was no longer on the Jefferson County Jail roster.
Menday noted that Witmarsh’s specific involvement is still under investigation, as only the three men appeared on the security video footage.
As of Friday, it was unknown the exact amount of money taken, but after a search of the vehicle Thursday night after deputies received a search warrant, two backpacks stuffed with dollar bills and a sweatshirt with a full pocket of bills were recovered with “a couple hundred dollars,” Menday said.
It’s been a decades-long tradition at Fat Smitty’s, a popular burger restaurant near the intersection of state Highway 20 and 101, to allow patrons to attach dollar bills to the wall and ceiling of the restaurant. The money is periodically collected and donated to local charities.
Many people include their signatures and other notes on the dollar bills that are attached to the wall with tape, staples and thumbtacks.
This is the third time this year that Fat Smitty’s has been burglarized, the second time in a month and the first time law enforcement has been able to catch the suspected culprits, Anglin said.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that the four recently arrested also played parts in prior robberies, but Anglin said “there’s no obvious match,” as of Friday.
The other robbery this month happened at about 3 a.m. on Nov. 13. Because many people sign the bills, a store owner in Poulsbo recognized the bills as being from the restaurant and alerted law enforcement, Anglin said.
Those burglars are still being sought. The sheriff’s office has photos taken from security footage posted at facebook.com/jeffcowasheriff.
The fact the earlier robbery this month was traced to Kitsap County prompted Menday to take a chance the Thursday morning burglars were going to head that direction.
“Presuming they have been the same suspects, Sgt. Menday figured they may utilize the same method of operation and assumed they were headed to Kitsap County and he just happened to be right,” Anglin said.
Menday was actually on his way home from his shift when the call went out and a fellow deputy who was also on his way home was able to back Menday up after he made contact with the four suspects.
“It was a bit skill and a lot of luck,” Menday said. “It was a good team effort all around.”
Anglin noted that there has been a higher than normal number of burglaries in Jefferson County.
“Residents should make sure that their property is safe this season,” he said. “Of course, also during the holiday season, mail thefts usually are on the rise, so ensure that your mailbox — if you have one — is emptied quickly.”
Jefferson County Reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].