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Crime: Deputies arrest suspect in take-out robberies

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

An Horry County man was arrested this week on five counts of armed robbery involving area take-out restaurants, according to the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office.

The robberies began in October at the China Wok in Litchfield Market Villages and included a robbery at Jersey Mike’s in Murrells Inlet last week. In between, there was a second robbery at the China Wok, two robberies at the China Chef in Murrells Inlet and a robbery at Five Guys Burgers in the Horry County section of Murrells Inlet. Witness descriptions and store videos of the suspect led police to believe the same person was responsible.

That person was found around 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to the sheriff’s office. State troopers saw a suspicious vehicle parked on the dirt portion of Petigru Drive. Inside, they found David Leland Yelton, 28, along with items “consistent with items described in the recent robberies,” said Carrie Cuthbertson, the sheriff’s office spokeswoman.

Deputies obtained a search warrant for Yelton’s home at 306 New River Rd., in a subdivision west of Bypass 17 near Surfside Beach. Along with armed robbery, he was charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of possession of narcotics.

Last week’s robbery at Jersey Mike’s in Woodside Village occurred around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The two employees in the restaurant told deputies it had been 20 minutes since the last customer left and they were starting to clean up before closing.

They heard the buzzer sound as a side door opened and walked to the front of the restaurant where they saw a man with a gun. They said it appeared to be a Glock 9 mm pistol. He wore a dark hooded sweatshirt under a denim jacket. He wore sunglasses and had a red bandana covering his nose and mouth.

The robber pointed his gun at the employees, a man, 29, and a woman, 24, both of Murrells Inlet. He motioned to the register. The employees raised their hands and moved to the register. The male employee opened the register. The robber grabbed the bills, placed them on the counter and put them in his front pocket.

The amount of money stolen was not disclosed, but it was less than $1,000.

The robber was calm and never spoke, the employees said. He pointed the gun at them and motioned toward the back of the restaurant. He directed them into a walk-in cooler and closed the door behind them.

The employees said they stayed in the cooler less than 30 seconds. By that time the robber was gone and they called 911.

They told deputies they didn’t see any cars outside and suggested he ran into the woods behind the shopping center. The whole incident lasted only 3 or 4 minutes, they said.

Employees at the China Wok called 911 around 8:15 p.m. Sunday to say the suspect had returned. He ripped a security camera from outside the back door and drove off in a small, light-colored sedan, the employees told deputies. A search of the area didn’t find the suspect.

Investigators later said there was no vandalism, but they reviewed the security camera footage and circulated a photo of a white male between 25 and 35, 5-foot-11, 135 pounds.

Unlike Yelton, the man at the restaurant door was clean-shaven.

Jail records in Horry County show Yelton was arrested in April on charges of second degree burglary and obtaining items under false pretences. He was arrested in May on unspecified charges.

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