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CAROLINA SHORES—He was living in their midst, venturing out in the dark of night to burglarize homes while residents slept.
According to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, Donald Edward Varner is responsible for more than seven months’ worth of break-ins and larcenies that occurred while he was living in a $203,000 rented house in Carolina Shores.
Varner, 53, of 78 Calabash Drive, Carolina Shores, was arrested March 17 by Brunswick County detectives. He faces 28 charges—nine counts of felony larceny, seven counts of breaking and entering, five counts of first-degree burglary, two counts each of auto larceny, attempted breaking and entering and first-degree burglary and larceny after breaking and entering, and one count of attempted larceny.
His initial bond of $450,000 was increased to $550,000 on March 19, when the additional charges of first-degree burglary and larceny after breaking and entering were added.
Hewett said Varner, who is being in the Brunswick County jail, has a criminal record.
The latest crimes he is charged with occurred between July 25, 2007, and this past March 13 in the towns of Carolina Shores and Calabash.
“Last night, he was caught here in the Calabash area by detectives who staked him out,” Hewett said on March 18. “He was not breaking and entering at the time, but he was arrested here in the Calabash city limits.”
The residents of Carolina Shores “have been terrorized for some time by this individual,” Hewett added.
The first-degree and felony charges stem from the fact that a number of the residential break-ins were committed while people were at home, Hewett said.
“First-degree burglary means breaking into an occupied home at night to commit a felony,” Hewett said. “He literally broke into the homes while the people were sleeping in their residences.”
Lived in area
One of the latest incidents involved a breaking and entering around 1 a.m. March 6 at an occupied home on Fairway Court in Carolina Shores. While the victim slept, a suspect stole two debit cards, a credit and Social Security card, a driver’s license, a set of keys and a Buick Ultra Park Avenue.
The suspect then drove the car to Wal-Mart in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., to return and receive a refund of $22.47 for a pair of pants that were also stolen from the home in a Wal-Mart bag. Afterward, the suspect returned to Carolina Shores, abandoning the stolen Buick at the corner of Carolina Shores and Country Club drives.
“He actually brought the car back, which was a clue that told me he must live in the area,” Hewett said.
“Obviously, the man has put our residents in fear because he’s breaking into houses that were occupied,” said Carolina Shores Mayor Stephen Selby, a retired police officer who in recent months had grown alarmed about the number of break-ins in his town, especially those that occurred while residents were at home.
As a result of the burglaries, Selby formed a mayor’s task force to address crime in Carolina Shores. The task force also met with Hewett, who dispatched a deputy to conduct a crime-watch meeting earlier this month at the Carolina Shores POA clubhouse, which was attended by about 80 residents.
“He gave us extra patrols as promised,” Selby said. “His detectives worked diligently to apprehend this person. We’re proud of them.”
Selby said he is hopeful the bulk of recent crime-related problems experienced in the community have been alleviated with Varner’s arrest.
“We have not had a house break-in since the man was arrested,” Selby said Tuesday.
Jim Powell, who lives next door to the house the burglary suspect was renting, said he only spoke to Varner in passing and did not know him very well.
Once, he said, Varner offered to dispose of some discarded cardboard for Powell.
“He said he’d just throw it in the back of his truck and he’d take it to the trash [receptacle] for me,” Powell said. “He seemed like a nice person. I never had any trouble with him.”
He said he wasn’t sure what Varner did for a living.
“We’d go weeks and not even see him,” Powell said.
Powell said he was surprised when he learned of Varner’s arrest.
“We just moved here in September,” he said. “We moved here from Columbus, Ohio.”
One of the reasons they chose Carolina Shores, he said, was to get away from Columbus’ high crime rate.