Easter Bunny, ever alert, helps police nab theft suspects Man, in holiday suit, spots, follows suspicious pair in Ellicott City

March 26, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

The Easter Bunny came a few days early for several Ellicott City merchants who were allegedly victimized by a pair who were charged with shoplifting last weekend, police said.

As Barry Gibson tells the tale, he was dressed in a fluffy white, fake fur bunny suit, colorful sequined vest and black sunglasses Sunday when he noticed a woman putting a wooden Christmas ornament into her purse while in the Forget-Me-Not Factory.

A man who was with the woman walked about the store -- a gift shop at the bottom of Main Street -- uttering obscenities and causing havoc, apparently trying to draw attention away from the woman, Gibson said.

"My bunny ears were definitely up when they were in the store," said Gibson, who is a dental technician in the office above the shop and often dresses up on holidays as a promotional attraction. The store is owned by Gibson's wife, Nancy, and her mother, Janet Vanderlipp.

"I didn't care for how they were acting, and I just felt really uncomfortable in their presence," Gibson said of the people he was observing. "I knew something was wrong."

According to Gibson, the man and woman -- apparently unaware that a grown man in a flamboyant rabbit suit was stalking them -- visited five more shops along the historic mill town's Main Street before Gibson could alert another merchant to call 911. Police arrived within a few minutes.

Sgt. Steven Keller, a police spokesman, said Paul Joseph Ritenour, 35, and Lenora Marie Candia, 32, both from Glen Burnie, were arrested and charged with four counts of theft from four shops.

They were later released from the Howard County Detention Center on their own recognizance, police said.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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