Upper Darby police say 2 women have admitted to burglarizing 29 area homes

Posted: September 18, 2011

Two 19-year-old Upper Darby women have admitted to burglarizing 29 area homes but fled one residence they were trying to enter when they saw a lion inside, police said Friday.

"They were climbing in the window and they saw what they described as a lion," said Michael J. Chitwood, superintendent of police.

He said police were continuing to check the home where the animal was reported. No one was there Friday and police did not hear any unusual noise, he said.

"If we find a lion, it will be a bigger story than this," said Chitwood.

Harley R. Gifford and Britney Singleton, of the 7100 block of Marshall Road, have been arrested, according to police, who expect to charge them with the crimes when their initial investigation is completed.

The majority of thefts happened since July and during daylight hours. The pair entered the homes through unlocked first-floor windows. After they looted them, they either walked or took public transportation home, said Chitwood.

In one burglary, the pair allegedly left with a 55-inch flat-screen television and walked down the street with it to their apartment a few blocks away.

"They just enjoyed stealing," said Chitwood. "They used people's homes as their own private shopping center."

They allegedly stole iPods, laptops, jewelry, toys, electronics, sneakers, makeup, purses, household items such as toilet paper, religious statues, and about $22,000 in cash.

Chitwood called the pair the "Thelma and Louise bandits."

Upper Darby police were investigating a string of burglaries in the Cardington, Stonehurst and Bywood sections of the township and Lansdowne Borough. They found that two women were seen at the locations where burglaries were reported. The investigators contacted other Delaware County police departments and learned of a similar burglary in Prospect Park.

There, a homeowner had been in hit in the back of the head while confronting an intruder. Singleton was later identified as a suspect.

Chitwood credited the "gumshoe" work by two detectives, Brad Ross and Jeff Dougherty, who went door-to-door in Upper Darby, showing a photo of Singleton and trying to find a lead to the pair.

One man who lived in the same apartment building identified the photo and told police he thought Singleton might have burglarized his unit, Capt. George Rhodes said. "Lo and behold, she did."

The two women are currently being held on unrelated charges, according to court documents. Police expect to charge the pair with burglary, criminal trespass, theft, receiving stolen property and other related crimes, according to court documents.

Chitwood said the women sold or fenced many items. He said a stolen .22 derringer handgun was fenced by the pair. They are trying to recover missing items, he said.

Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149, mschaefer@phillynews.com or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.

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