UPDATE: Wednesday morning, South Bend Police released information on the arrests of two men and a woman arrested in connection with the theft of a Children's Miracle Network donation box at Walmart.
When arrested on Tuesday, police found the wagon containing the donation box in the vehicle's trunk.
Arrested were Kayla Kerr, 21; Steven Hook Jr., 31; and Steven Taylor, 27. Police believe the three are linked to numerous shoplift thefts throughout the county as well as other crimes.
The story of how a local store manager may have broken the case:
When the thief took the cartons of cigarettes from the counter and bolted for the door, Dean Snyder followed in pursuit.
Snyder, the manager of Smoke Shop mini mart on Lincoln Way East, couldn't get to the suspect before he jumped into a car and took off, but he did get a good description of the vehicle and, more importantly, a license plate number.
As it turned out, Snyder's actions played a large role in not only solving the smoke shop theft, but possibly putting an end to a large criminal enterprise that targeted possibly dozens of businesses, including charities.
Police said one of the suspects in the Smoke Shop theft also stole a charity donation container from a Wal-Mart this week that is used to raise money for children at Riley Hospital For Children.
That, Snyder said, made the arrest that much better.
"I got goosebumps," said Snyder, who manages the business at 1712 Lincoln Way E. in South Bend. "Stealing from these kids; nothing turns my stomach more than stealing from the needy."
Police on Monday arrested a 31-year-old South Bend area man on suspicion of not only stealing cigarettes, but for swiping the donation container -- and the red wagon it sits on -- from the Wal-Mart on Ireland Road in South Bend about 7:30 a.m. Monday.
The suspect was arrested on suspicion of five felony thefts, which includes the 9:30 a.m. Monday incident at the mini mart.
Four other area Wal-Marts, including the one in Mishawaka and three in Elkhart County, also have had the same thefts of donation containers in recent weeks. Police are not sure whether the suspect and a man and woman who were also apprehended are connected to those thefts.
Police said the 31-year-old suspect does not match the description in the other Wal-Mart thefts, although police are checking to see if he may be connected in some way.
Either way, police said, the arrest of the suspect could put and end to a large crime enterprise.
"There was thefts of all kinds of products from all kids of stores," said Capt. Phil Trent, South Bend police spokesman. "Thefts from gas stations, smoke shops. He had lots of connections with other people we have yet to put our hands on."
"We're looking into this individual and two other individuals that are possibly involved in a much broader criminal enterprise," which could include burglaries to residences.
Trent said the suspects were "not doing anything legitimate," and are possibly involved in stealing cars as well as involved in narcotics. Police said they uncovered a stolen car during the arrest Monday.
The suspect could be involved in upward to dozens of thefts, police said.
Trent said a man and a woman -- aside from the 31-year-old suspect -- were being questioned Tuesday afternoon and added they could be arrested as early as Tuesday night.
As for Snyder, police commended him for assisting them.
"It helped a lot," Trent said. "All you need is a good lead and it can break the case open. One shred of information; one thing to look for."
Staff writer Tom Moor: