By Tia Lynn Ivey
A detached garage is the only structure left standing beside the ruins of the Wagner Family home on Parks Mill Road in Buckhead, which was consumed by ravenous fire at the end of August. This week, the garage was burglarized twice. The thieves reportedly stole about $60,000 worth of belongings stored in the Wagner’s detached garage.
On Friday, Dec. 21, investigators with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office arrested Thomas Paradise, a 35-year-old Social Circle man and charged him with two counts of burglary in relation to the theft. According to Sgt. Brandon Sellers, Investigations Division, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, Paradise also had a “quantity” of suspected methamphetamine on his person at the time of the arrest and will face those charges in Walton County.
Paradise was arrested, in part, Sellers said, after someone who had viewed surveillance video of the theft. A woman put a name on the truck and we took it from there,” he said.
“I just can’t believe there are people out there who would look at a burned down house and think it’s alright to do something like that—to steal from people who already lost everything,” said Lisa Wagner.
The Wagners discovered their garaged had been robbed on Sunday morning, December 16. They installed two deer cams that day and recorded the second robbery that took place on Monday, Dec. 17. This time, the thieves took more belongings from the Wagners garage, copper piping beneath the house and one of the deer cams. However, the Wagners turned over the remaining footage to the Morgan County’s Sheriff Office which shows two pickup trucks on their property, one full of the Wagner’s belongings as it drives off.
The footage did not clearly show the license plates or faces of the drivers. However, since the Wangers shared the video on Facebook, it was re-shared more than 500 times, with numerous people coming forward claiming they spotted the vehicles in the area.
“We don’t believe this is a crew coming from Atlanta or anything,” said Young before the arrest. “We believe this is the work of somebody local.”
The Wagners were disheartened by the burglaries, adding even more stress to an already devastating situation.
“It’s been tough,” said Lisa, who escaped from her burning home with her husband and teenage son on Aug. 30. The Wagners were awoken by the sound of their faithful rescued dogs’ barks, which alerted the family of the quickly spreading fire. “We lost our home and since then have been living in a rental while we figure out what to do next.”
According to Lisa, the family’s insurance policy will not cover the full cost to rebuild their home.
“Our insurance won’t cover all of it. It’s off by more than $100,000,” lamented Lisa. “At this point, we might have to try to sell the land and build someplace else.”
“It’s just been a terrible ordeal, and now we have to deal with being robbed,” said Lisa Wagner.
Sellers said investigators were able to recover “a substantial amount of the victim’s property” since the arrest.