BEAUFORT, S.C. (January 20, 2022) – A Hilton Head Island man with a long criminal history has been sent to prison for stealing a tourist’s purse that was left in her vehicle in the island’s Burkes Beach area.
A Beaufort County General Sessions Court jury found Joseph Deandre Cooper, who will turn 49 next week, guilty Thursday of larceny. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the maximum penalty.
“This was a callous act committed by a man who has a long history of crimes of this nature,” said Assistant Solicitor Jared Shedd of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “He has shown no regard for the rights and property of others, even after receiving shorter prison sentences in the past.”
Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputies went to the parking area of Burkes Beach on Hilton Head Island on Aug. 10, 2019, after receiving a report that someone had broken a window in a blue Nissan SUV and stolen a purse from the rear floorboard. The purse contained a bank card, $200 in cash, a tablet computer and prescription medicine. The vehicle had been rented from Enterprise Car Rental from a customer vacationing on the island from Ohio.
Law enforcement viewed video surveillance footage of the area and observed Cooper walking near the vehicle at about the time of the theft. A witness who agreed to give Cooper a ride from the area that morning, but who did not know what he intended to do, told investigators Cooper got in her car carrying a woman’s purse that matched the description of the stolen item.
The jury acquitted Cooper of a charge of breaking into a motor vehicle but convicted him of larceny.
Cooper’s criminal history dates to 1990 and includes convictions for resisting arrest, grand larceny, malicious injury to property, shoplifting, domestic violence, trespassing and burglary. He has served at least six previous prison sentences in South Carolina, ranging from six months to five years.
Shedd called eight witnesses during one day of testimony at the Beaufort County Courthouse.
Circuit Court Judge Robert Bonds handed down the sentence.