Hiawassee man wanted across state lines for stealing dozens of guns, illegal hunting arrested

The Hiawassee Police Department says a serial burglar responsible for the theft of dozens of guns is now behind bars thanks to a multi-law enforcement agency effort.

"You got to have all the puzzle pieces and the information sharing, the networking, all of that stuff just helped this puzzle come together," said Chief of Hiawassee Police Jeremy Parker.

He says they've been missing the puzzle pieces to arrest James Leech for a while now.

"These are known suspects for some of our burglaries in the city of Hiawassee. And so we've been looking for these people, watching these folks," Parker said.  

On April 21, Parker says they got a call from investigators at the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office in South Carolina.

They described the burglary suspect and vehicle to Parker.

"And immediately we were able to identify this guy," Parker said. 

That allowed them to execute a search warrant at Leech's house in Hiawassee.

At that point, they found the stolen goods from the South Carolina burglary, which included a golf cart.

They also arrested Leech’s wife, Caitlin Robertson, on charges of theft by receiving stolen property, among other charges.

(Credit: Hiawassee Police Department)

Investigators also found dozens of wings from native birds of prey.

Parker alerted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and they subsequently charged Leech with 19 counts of illegal hunting.

But they also found a large cache of stolen guns.

"We ran those, and they ended up coming back stolen out of Cobb County. So, we immediately contacted the Cobb County Police Department and were able to get a hold of their investigator. They had kind of reached a dead end on their case," Parker said. 

That case involved those guns which were from two separate burglaries at the same Cobb County home.

(Credit: Hiawassee Police Department)

The first one being in March and the second in April.

"There were 22 weapons that were stolen out of two separate burglaries. So we were very proud to be able to take some of those guns back off the street and keep them out of the criminal's hands, for sure," Parker said. 

Cobb County was also able to share surveillance video from the second burglary which further connected Leech to the crime.

Then on May 9, Cobb County Police got a hit on Leech’s car from an Automated License Plate Reader. 

They were able to take him into custody. 

"I would definitely classify them as serial burglars," Parker said. "They're traveling and burglarizing these homes and taking people's property that they work hard for. So it was very important to get these people off the streets."

Chief Parker said that inter-agency collaboration between them, the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office and Cobb County Police was key to getting Leech into custody.

He now faces a slew of charges including first degree burglary and unlawful possession of firearms.