LAPORTE | Police suspect the same woman who stole cigarettes from convenience stores in Portage and Chesterton later struck twice in LaPorte.
A possible break in the case came from a store clerk in LaPorte who recognized her as the bandit depicted in a picture of the suspect published in The Times with a story about the heists.
LaPorte Police Chief of Detectives Tom Thate said officers are working with detectives in Portage and Chesterton to identify the woman.
"It sounds to be the same," Thate said.
About 9 a.m. Wednesday, a woman at Rush Hour Foods at 617 Pine Lake Ave., asked for two cartons of cigarettes.
The store clerk placed them on the counter and the woman grabbed the cigarettes then fled.
The clerk told police the woman appeared to be the one who victimized other stores judging by the story of those thefts and picture of the thief published Tuesday at nwi.com and in Wednesday's edition of The Times.
About one hour later, a woman in LaPorte grabbed two cartons of cigarettes from the counter at Marathon at 1351 W. Ind. 2 and fled without paying.
She was seen fleeing in a maroon or red colored vehicle and was described as 5 feet 5 inches tall, skinny with blonde hair.
The description matches the appearance of a woman and getaway vehicle in connection with cigarettes stolen Monday and Tuesday from a Family Express at 1681 Pioneer Trail and Speedway at 752 Indian Boundary Road in Chesterton and Family Express at 6250 Ameriplex Drive in Portage.
Thate said images of the woman from all of the stores will be compared to determine for certain if it was the same thief involved and try to identify that individual.
Eventually, a picture might be posted on the department's Facebook page to help generate more leads, Thate said.
In each of the incidents in Chesterton and Portage, the woman asked to purchase two cartons of cigarettes and when her credit card didn't work in the reader properly grabbed the smokes and fled.