Local man arrested in tea set theft

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 8, 2012

The theft of a valuable silver tea set from a home on Lake Shore Road was allegedly committed by a suspect driven to crime by drug addiction.


The suspect, Robert Lee Cooper II, 32, of St. Clair Shores, was arrested Oct. 3 and arraigned Oct. 5 by Shores/Farms Municipal Court Judge Matthew Rumora on felony charges of second-degree home invasion, possession of burglary tools, receiving and concealing stolen goods and larceny in a building. The arraignment took place in the Farms.


Wearing shorts and a T-shirt bearing the name of his employer, an eastside landscaping firm, a largely silent Cooper listened to the charges and a defense offered by his attorney for the arraignment, Robert Ihrie. But the strained look on the defendant’s face and a shaking leg spoke volumes about his emotional state as he faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.


Detective Sgt. Scott Rohr said Cooper was working in the area around the time of the theft, and he saw the tea set through a window. Rohr said that the suspect confessed to the crime after police searched his home.


Rohr said Cooper and a second person — who was said to have not been involved in the break-in and wasn’t facing charges at press time — sold portions of the solid sterling silver tea set to a local precious metals broker. He said police were able to recover the full set, including the pieces that had been sold.


“We’re just glad that we could help the resident and recover their property,” said Rohr of the tea set, which is a family heirloom with sentimental value to the homeowners.


A police report indicated that a home in the 500 block of Lake Shore was the site of the break-in between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sept. 28. The victim told police the stolen tea set was worth $10,500.


After realizing that the set was missing, the resident told police she also noticed that the rear sliding glass door appeared to be locked, but it pulled open easily, as if unlocked. Police said they found fingerprints and handprints on the door, as well as what appeared to be a pry mark. A bowl sitting next to the tea set had an apparent fingerprint, as well.


The victim’s nanny and two cleaning women were at the home during different time periods that day, but while the break-in was taking place, no one was at the address.


According to the report, the tea set was visible from a rear window.


In court, Rohr told the judge that police recovered sales slips with the defendant’s name and thumbprint on them, as well as slips with the name of the other person who is said to have sold portions of the tea set. He added that a screwdriver that matches the pry mark made on the sliding glass door was recovered in the backseat of Cooper’s car.


The suspect is allegedly addicted to heroin, which may have led to the theft. Locally, police say many property crimes, such as larcenies from vehicles, are committed by drug addicts hoping to make quick cash to cover their next fix. It’s a trend nationwide: According to an online report from the U.S. Justice Department, in 2002, roughly 25 percent of those convicted of property and drug offenses in local prisons committed their offenses to obtain money for drugs.


Ihrie, who referred to his client as “Robbie,” said he has known Cooper since the defendant was a child; Cooper is a longtime friend of the attorney’s three children, he said. Ihrie said Cooper has no criminal record of any significance and has never been charged with or convicted of a felony. The attorney told Rumora Cooper’s past only included “one minor misdemeanor when he was a teen.” Cooper has been married for about the last six years to a hotel consultant and had been working full-time at the time of his arrest, he said.


“He is not a voluntary drug user,” said Ihrie of the defendant, who he said has submitted himself to drug rehabilitation programs before and “wants to resolve his situation with drugs.”


Although Ihrie declined to offer specifics to the court, he said Cooper’s drug use was triggered by something that happened when he was younger.


“Robbie was involved many, many years ago in difficult situations (that impacted) a shy young man … and he fell into the use of drugs,” the attorney told Rumora.


News reports name Cooper as one of the suspects in a 1998 sex scandal involving several Grosse Pointe North High School students. The male suspects allegedly gave alcohol to underage teen girls and had sex with them. Cooper, who was 18 at the time, ultimately pled guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor in a plea deal, according to those reports.


Arguing for a personal bond, Ihrie called Cooper a “low flight risk” and noted that his client wasn’t armed at the time of the break-in, which took place when no one was home and left no one injured.


Rohr disagreed, saying that although Cooper showed some remorse — “albeit after the fact” — he also “admitted he is a regular heroin user,” leading police to believe he would seek out drugs again if released.


“I’m concerned not just for the public at large, but for the defendant himself,” said Rohr, asking the court for at least a 10 percent bond and a GPS tether.


Rumora concurred, giving Cooper a $25,000 cash surety bond, for which he could be released if he could post 10 percent. The judge also ruled that Cooper would need to wear a GPS tether if released, and would have to stay out of Grosse Pointe Shores and have no contact with anyone living at the house he reportedly broke into.


“He’s looking at four felonies here,” Rumora told Ihrie. “When somebody breaks into a house … that’s the ultimate in (a resident) not feeling safe anymore.”


Cooper declined comment after his arraignment.


At press time, Cooper was slated to be transferred to the Wayne County Jail in Detroit. Rumora set 8 a.m. Oct. 18 for Cooper’s preliminary exam.