A state case against four defendants accused of a jewelry theft which occurred in Coal Run in 2015 was dismissed in Pike Circuit Court Wednesday as the two males involved are now both in federal custody in North Carolina for similar charges.
Gregory Brian Gobble, 37, of Thomasville, North Carolina, Jeramie L. McSweeney, 38, Leslie Ruth Niehaus, 28, and Jessica Dawn Greer, now Jessica McSweeney, 29, all of Lenoir, North Carolina, were indicted by a Pike grand jury on charges including theft in the case.
As part of a plea agreement for Gobble in December 2017 in U.S. District Court in North Carolina, U.S. Attorney R. Andrew Murray filed a factual basis finding in the case, which Gobble’s attorney agreed that Gobble did not dispute.
In the filing, the details of the group’s string of robberies mirrors the details of the 2015 Coal Run robbery. Gobble was first connected to the Coal Run robbery through a blood and DNA sample which was returned in December 2016. Pike Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Bartley said at the time the blood and DNA sample was left behind after Gobble performed the “smash-and-grab” theft in June 2015 in Coal Run.
“Somebody entered the Hefner’s Jewelry (that day) store in the Coal Run plaza wearing a motorcycle helmet, a jacket and gloves so their identity was concealed,” Bartley said at the time.
Gobble, police said, smashed a display case before fleeing the store on foot, with several pieces of jewelry, before fleeing the area on a motorcycle. The two women were seen on surveillance footage inside of the store the evening before the theft occurred. Video evidence and witness statements led Coal Run Police Chief Jason Ray to the Brookshire Inn in Pikeville where the women had spent the night before the theft.
In the federal filing, McSweeney was connected by Goble, first, to a March 2015 robbery in Hickory, North Carolina, located northwest of Charlotte, at Bisanar Company. On March 30, 2015, North Carolina Highway Patrol stopped a vehicle in which Greer was driving and McSweeney was a passenger. Troopers located 15 rings hidden in a rubber glove in the vehicle, most of which were determined to have been taken from Bisanar. On July 2, 2015, a male, wearing a motorcycle helmet, dark long-sleeve shirt, long pants and carrying a black bag, entered the Gold-N-Clipper Inc. in Highlands. An employee was alerted after a display case was shattered.
The male then fled to a motorcycle, which failed to start, before fleeing on foot into a nearby wooded area where a witness watched the male flee and saw the male as a passenger riding in a Mazda pickup truck. A “citizen” began following the truck until it wrecked and two males exited the vehicle and fled. Highlands Police Department was alerted to complaints from a local golf course that a male with “cuts, bruised and dirty clothes” was trying to hail a taxi. That male was identified as McSweeney. Officers seized a hammer, motorcycle helmet and dark shirt from the truck, as well as a billfold with Gobble’s license and a prescription bottle with Gobble’s name.
In May 2016, Gregory’s Jewelers in Morganton, North Carolina, located approximately 40 miles from the Tennessee and North Carolina state line in northwest North Carolina, was also robbed. Two subjects entered the store wearing motorcycle helmets, masks and gloves and smashed the front two jewelry cases and began emptying contents into duffel bags. Workers clearing a building behind the store days later located a motorcycle and police found a latent print matching Gobble on a helmet on that motorcycle.
In just those three robberies, the group was alleged to have taken jewelry in value of more than $485,000, which did not include a total from Hefner’s in Coal Run.
In April 2007, McSweeney was found guilty of aiding and abetting larceny in Forsyth County (North Carolina) Superior Court. He also admitted status as an “habitual felon,” during that case. He was to be sentenced to between 151 and 191 months in prison.
McSweeney was found guilty of an August 2005 theft from a jewelry store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, after he entered the store “to review engagement rings.”
McSweeney was taken into custody by federal agents in May and has remained in custody since then. Bartley said, with the knowledge that McSweeney plans to enter into a plea agreement, and “will serve a substantial amount of time,” he would dismiss the case in Kentucky against Greer and Niehaus.
Greer and Niehaus did appear at their hearing Wednesday and the case was dismissed without prejudice by Pike Circuit Judge Eddy Coleman.
McSweeney is currently scheduled for a hearing North Carolina in November.