Diamonds are forever - or at least until they pass through your intestinal tract.
That's what county police were hoping when they arrested and charged a suspect with stealing two diamond engagement rings Monday from a jewelry store in the Annapolis Mall.
The last the officers knew, a 1.86-karat ring -- worth about $12,000 -- and its 1.9-karat companion -- worth about $14,000 -- were in Benny Darrell King's mouth, said police spokesman Officer V. Richard Molloy.
"His speech was extremely garbled when the officers caught up with him," he said. "The officer ordered him to spit it out and he refused. Once they got to Southern District station, his speech was not garbled anymore."
So the officers got a search warrant for the contents of King's stomach and took him to Anne Arundel Medical Center, where he was X-rayed.
"They couldn't find them," Molloy said. "But both officers said they saw him swallow them."
A spokesman for North Arundel Hospital said if King did swallow the rings, conventional X-rays would have pinpointed the metal settings.
Molloy said other officers used a metal detector to search King and combed the patrol car the suspect rode in but turned up nothing.
Gone, too, is their chance to let nature take its course.
King, 23, of the 4500 block Garden Drive in Baltimore has been charged with felony theft but was held only briefly in the county detention center on a $2,500 bond.
Richard Baker, jail superintendent, said King was not supervised while he was being held. "No one directed me to watch him," he said.
And after a bond hearing yesterday afternoon, a District Court judge released King to a pretrial program, where he will be under court supervision.
Molloy said the absence of evidence will not necessarily hamper prosecution. "The man (store manager) saw him run out with the rings," he said.
Police said King walked into the Zales Jewelry store in the mall just after 12:30 and asked to see two diamond engagement rings.
"He was in the store about 20 minutes," manager John Pittelli said. "He was sitting in a chair talking to me."
Pittelli said when King grabbed both the rings, Pittelli jumped over the counter and began chasing him.
"I yelled, 'Stop, thief,' " he said. "A guy from the Naval Academy started chasing him and then a county police officer."
Molloy said off-duty Officer Brian Riddle was at the mall shopping with his wife when he saw Pittelli chasing King. Riddle took up the chase.
Just then a small gray car driven by a black woman pulled into the parking lot and King tried to get in, but the passenger side door was locked. The woman drove away, leaving King behind.
Police consider the driver a suspect in the heist. Officers ran a check on the car's license plate, and it did not appear in state Motor Vehicle Administration records.
King ran toward Route 450 with Riddle close behind. Molloy said King stopped and spun toward the officer, reached into his pocket and said: "Back off or I'll blow your ---- away."
Riddle grabbed him, and when another officer arrived, they handcuffed King.
In his pockets, police found a pair of black leather gloves, several green pills, a handcuff key, a green rubber ball, a list of names and phone numbers and a Maryland driver's license, Molloy said.
"When they put him in the car, he was making all these 'mmm' noises," Pittelli said. "It was like he had a mouth full of peanut butter or something."