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.