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Palace Café owner Leslie Meredith used to take people into her house who didn’t have any­where else to go and tried to help them get back on their feet.

But when the Palace Café — and both of its safes — was broken into in January, she had a sus­picion that one of the people she had taken in was to blame.

“They had come in and eaten the day before,” she said. “They had never come in to eat before.”

The morning after the two sus­pects’ unusual visit to the Palace, one of the wait­resses who came in at 5:30 a.m. found the back door kicked in and both of the restaurant’s safes pried open. Meredith told the detective inves­ti­gating the case her sus­pi­cions, and four people were arrested for the break-in after cashing in the money at Walmart, one of whom had been staying with Meredith.

“So it was an inside infor- mation thing,” Meredith said. The Hillsdale Daily News

reported that Corey Demots and Jordan Tracey were found to be guilty last week by the dis­trict court on one count of at- tempted breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny. The charges of safe breaking, breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny, and con­spiracy to commit break- ing and entering were dropped as part of the plea bar­gains of paying resti­tution to the Palace Café and tes­ti­fying against co- defen­dants, Kyle Brewer and Michael Murray.

Demots admitted to telling Brewer and Murray that the

Palace Café did not have cam- eras and dis­closing the location of the safes.

Brewer was arraigned on Feb. 29. All four will serve time in prison, which will be deter­mined by their sen­tencing in April.

“I’ve decided my homeless shelter is closed at my house,” Meredith said.

She said they have also in- stalled a camera at the café, as well as a bigger, better safe and new rein­forced doors. Meredith also said she no longer keeps cash on the premises.

“It’s also affected my hir- ing,” she said. “I have to look at everyone dif­fer­ently now.”

Detective Brad Martin said this incident of breaking and entering was iso­lated, but since November, the city of Hillsdale has expe­ri­enced around 11 break-ins.

“We believe that the residen- tial bur­glaries are all con­nected and all com­mitted by one person,” he said.

The break-in at the Palace Café, however, was an iso­lated incident.

Martin said the bur­glaries that have been taking place at homes in the area have been for the purpose of stealing jewelry to sell for money. While 11 have taken place within the ju- ris­diction of the Hillsdale City Police Department, there have been other inci­dents in Jones- ville and outside of Hillsdale city limits.

Martin said that with the un- usual number of bur­glaries go- ing on, no one should hes­itate to report sus­pi­cious behavior to the police.

“The best advice we can give is for people to be cau­tious and be aware of sus­pi­cious people,” he said.