Throughout the course of several months, the two neighbors became friends. They shared coffee, borrowed sugar and chatted about their lives. Nancy Harris saw the young woman next door as someone who had no family and wanted companionship.
For Harris, that was nothing new. She is known as the mom in her Greenwood neighborhood. Kids come to her house after they get off the bus for a snack and a place to hang out until their parents get home.
After a little while, neighbor Chloe Hunt had become a family friend, helping Harris’ grandson with his homework. Harris would give her rides. And when Hunt got into a bind financially, Harris loaned her $80 for gas and a divorce class she was required to take.
“I thought she needed help, and I wanted to help,” Harris said.
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At the end of August, after some prompting, Hunt paid Harris back, and the two didn’t talk for a while. Harris thought her neighbor was likely busy and didn’t think much of it.
A couple weeks later, after taking a nap, Harris woke to find two tablets in her home, belonging to her and her grandson, gone. Harris had become one of the nearly 2,000 Greenwood residents who are the victims of theft every year, according to Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics.
“It hit me, someone had been in the house,” Harris said.
She called police, she went to nearby pawn shops and even went to the store where she bought the tablets to see if they could be traced. She was told if the tablet was turned on, it would send a notification, but that didn’t happen.
Harris headed home, feeling deflated. On instinct, she decided to check her jewelry box upstairs.
When she did, tears immediately sprung to her eyes — everything was gone.
Harris had her grandparents’ rings, rings that had been given to her for her birthday, rings from her children and Christmas gifts. It was all gone.
She didn’t want to believe it, but Harris immediately suspected Hunt, since she was the only person she had let into the home outside of family and close friends. The more she thought about it, the angrier she became.
Finally, Harris pounded on her neighbor’s door, demanding her jewelry and tablets back. Hunt told her she hadn’t taken them, and she wouldn’t steal.
The next day, Hunt left Harris a note with one of her tablets, saying children had found it in the yard. That same day, Harris called police to report her rings also were stolen. A few days later, a Greenwood detective called Harris to say they had found some of her rings at a pawn shop in Indianapolis. Hunt had sold them to the shop, using her own driver’s license and even leaving her fingerprints, according to the police report.
Hunt was not represented by an attorney and could not be reached for comment.
Police then received another report that Hunt had stolen from her boyfriend’s parents, while she was living with them in the home next door to Harris in the Summerfield neighborhood. The resident said Hunt had taken shoes and hair clippers. Detectives found those items listed in an online advertisement and contacted Hunt to set up a sale, according to the police report.
The detective met with Hunt, and after buying items from her identified himself as a police officer. Hunt ran, but officers caught and arrested her. She told officers she had taken rings from Harris’ home and sold them but could not remember how many she had taken or where she pawned them, the report said.
Hunt later pleaded guilty to theft and resisting law enforcement, and was sentenced to time she already had served in jail, plus more than a year-and-a-half on probation and community service. She also was ordered to pay more than $1,600 in restitution, according to court records.
But for Harris, that isn’t where the story ends.
After her court date, Hunt came back to live with her boyfriend and his parents, next door to Harris. But Harris hasn’t seen her since and thinks she has moved out, Harris said.
After the theft, Harris no longer feels comfortable in her home of 14 years. She keeps the jewelry she has left in a safe deposit box, and makes sure all of her doors are locked. She has a randomizer which changes the security code for her garage door, and has alarms for her windows.
“It scares me,” she said.
And she knows she will never get back several of her rings.
“Each of these pieces has a story. They’re not just pieces of gold, they’re my story,” she said.
She doesn’t have her grandmother’s ring anymore that meant so much to her, especially because she loved the story behind it. Her grandfather bought that ring for her grandmother years after they were married, since they got married during the Depression and he couldn’t afford it then.
Harris is having two of the rings duplicated with money she received from her insurance company, but it won’t be the same, she said. But even getting reimbursed by her insurance company was a nightmare, with her fighting an initial denial saying she had misplaced the rings and then spending more than $100 to get them all appraised.
And she doesn’t think 45 days served is enough for what Hunt did.
Under state sentencing rules, which were changed in 2014, a theft charge can only be filed as a misdemeanor or the lowest level felony, and those charges are not eligible for a prison sentence, Prosecutor Brad Cooper said.
“This has all just been a nightmare,” Harris said. “They’re not accountable. I’m accountable.”