Smyrna, GA—The modern-day Bonnie and Clyde jewelry thieves are in jail as Georgia police arrested the attractive young woman with a gun who has been terrorizing jewelers in the Southeast since last spring. A nationwide media alert led to her apprehension.
Abigail Lee Kemp, 24, the prime suspect in a half-dozen robberies who made industry history as the first female bandit to rob jewelry stores alone, was taken into custody in an Atlanta suburb last Friday. It’s believed she stole more than four million dollars’ worth of jewelry since the beginning of her crime spree last April, at a Jared store in the Atlanta suburbs. She struck again in August, prompting the Jewelers Security Alliance and FBI to launch a manhunt with JSA offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to her arrest. She then followed up with four more robberies, culminating in one just two weeks ago.
In all incidents she entered the store alone, which didn’t arouse much suspicion because she looked “like any customer you’d want in your store,” said Jewelers Security Alliance president John Kennedy. She tied store associates up with plastic zip ties and forced them into a back room, then used their keys to open the showcases and clean out the contents. She wore gloves to pull merchandise into a plastic bag, but she made no effort to hide her face from security cameras and even boldly stared into one while casing a store last summer. Security footage shows her dropping pieces one by one into her bag—almost as if she were deliberately taking her time—instead of sweeping the cases clean in one motion as quickly as possible.
But then the case made national news, first on ABC’s World News Tonight, and again the next morning on Good Morning America, also on ABC. As the saying goes, “if you see something, say something,” and it was only a matter of time before multiple people spoke up. In a statement, the FBI said its Jacksonville Division began receiving tips within hours after a press release was issued requesting help finding the suspects. A CNN report of her arrest says social media was used to trace the registration of the car reportedly used for getaways, and also that there was warrant for her arrest for battery outstanding since 2011.
The Atlanta office of the FBI assisted in arresting Kemp, along with a second person, whom authorities hadn’t identified at press time. It’s unclear if that individual was the large black man also seen on some of the security footage of Kemp. It’s believed she was working with an accomplice who waited outside in a getaway car.
An NBC news report interviewed a former classmate of Kemp’s, who was stunned to find what his childhood friend was up to. He described her as a “social butterfly, the life of the party,” and said that the last time he’d seen her—about a year ago—she was working as a waitress and seemed happy.
Before news of her arrest was made public, John Kennedy discussed the case at the Jewelers Security Alliance’s annual luncheon held Saturday in New York, as an example of how important sharing information is for security for jewelers. He told attendees of the television coverage of the case and that tips were flooding in since the broadcasts.
Separately, JSA presented the 17th annual James B. White Award to Law Enforcement to senior special agent James K. Liscinsky from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, for his role in the investigation leading to the arrest and conviction of eight gang members working out of Virginia who carried out at least 15 violent robberies of traveling jewelry salespeople, with losses of at least $4.6 million. This award marked the first time JSA has honored a member of the ATF.
JSA also presented its 10th annual Industry Service Award to David J. Sexton, vice president of loss prevention consulting for Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.