How multiple metro agencies linked one suspect to more than 30 crimes

Two suspects broke into the store, loaded 11 puppies into cloth bags and left.

Credit: Petland

Credit: Petland

He smashes glass windows with cinder blocks, breaks into small businesses and helps himself, investigators across metro Atlanta say. Christopher Adam Lee is accused of stealing puppies, wigs and cash from at least 30 stores since January.

His cell phone, authorities say, linked him to the slew of crimes.

Detectives from various agencies in DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Fulton counties interviewed business owners and reviewed video from security cameras to help identify Lee, 33. His iPhone became a key clue for investigators because it placed him at various crime scenes, they said.

Late last week, investigators in Cobb County added more charges to Lee’s growing list after a Smyrna detective was tipped off by an Atlanta police detective. Lee’s cell phone records had placed him at the scene of seven burglaries on June 28 in Cobb and Fulton counties.

ExplorePolice link man to thefts of dozens of metro Atlanta puppies

“His cell phone connection records indicate a pattern of travel to and a presence around locations where and hair and smoke shop burglaries occur,” an Atlanta police department report states. “Christopher Lee has an extensive criminal history and is currently a primary suspect in multiple commercial burglaries in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.”

In July, Lee was arrested in Columbus on various unrelated charges, jail records show. During his time behind bars, Lee has been linked to more crimes. That’s because investigators were able to search his phone records, which “pinged” Lee at locations where crimes occurred.

According to Lee’s latest arrest warrant, four cell phone towers place him in the area of a Smyrna CBD shop in the early morning hours June 28. Earlier in the overnight hours, Lee had already hit a Lenox Road shopping center, burglarizing two smoke shops, a dry cleaner and cell phone repair shop, according to Atlanta police.

Christopher Adam Lee, 33, has previously served four times in state prisons, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

One merchant whose Cobb County business was among those burglarized told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was able to watch the heist in real time, thanks to his security cameras.

“It was devastating to watch it on the camera and you really can’t do anything but call police," said the merchant, who requested his name not be used lest his business be targeted again.

By the time officers got to the merchant’s business, Lee and two unidentified accomplices were gone. While Smyrna investigators began to work the case, investigators in other counties were also zeroing in on Lee. And the bounty Lee was stealing was adding up, according to police. It wasn’t known Wednesday whether any stolen items were found and returned to businesses.

On Jan. 12, Lee burglarized a Hill Street salon and stole hair, wigs and supplies totaling over $100,000, according to one of a dozen police reports obtained from Atlanta police. In February, Lee is accused of another smash-and-grab at a Memorial Drive hair shop. On a single day in March, he is linked to burglaries at eight businesses in Atlanta.

Then, Lee moved to pet shops, stealing pricey puppies by putting them in large sacks, according to police.

On March 15, 11 puppies worth more than $75,000 were stolen from a Kennesaw-area pet store, a spokesperson previously told The AJC.

Petland released photos of nine of the 11 stolen puppies.

Credit: Petland

Credit: Petland

“The two thieves callously threw puppies into large cloth bags, leaving kennel doors open where other puppies could fall and get hurt,” Petland spokeswoman Lauren Petz previously said.

During one night in April, Lee is accused of stealing puppies in Dunwoody and Gwinnett County, according to police. Within a two-week period, the same pet store on Old Norcross Road was hit twice.

In Gwinnett, Lee and an unidentified accomplice stole 19 puppies worth about $60,000, according to police. The suspects took about $400 from the cash registers and then tossed the puppies into two green bags, according to police. Five English bulldogs, four Yorkie-Poos, four Malteses, two Shih-Poos, three Morkies, and one Shih-Tzu were stolen from the store, police said.

Metro-area police credit collaboration between agencies and technology that led to dozens of criminal charges for Lee. He’s currently in custody in Muscogee County, where he’s being held without bond on 25 charges.

Georgia Department of Corrections records show Lee has previously served five times in state prisons. He was last released from prison in January 2017. His crime? Burglary.

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