According to court documents, the string of robberies started at the Turkey Hill on Green Meadows Drive in Lewis Center on February 3. A Delaware County Sheriff’s Office detective said the store was robbed by a man who told employees he had a gun. Reported stolen were cigarettes and cash worth around $185.
When detectives reviewed surveillance video, they saw the suspect leave in a Ford Focus with a spare ‘donut’ tire on the front driver’s side.
Detectives said the same gas station was robbed again two days later. This time, investigators said the suspect, believed to be the same person, brandished a handgun while a woman filled a trash bag with cartons of cigarettes. Between 40 and 60 cartons of cigarettes were taken, along with some cash.
After the second robbery, Delaware County compared notes with Columbus police, who believed the same suspect was responsible for two more robberies.
Around 3:30 a.m. on February 6, the Ford Focus was spotted by deputies on Polaris Parkway near Interstate 71. When a deputy tried to stop the car, the driver fled south on 71, turning lights off in order to escape detection. While the car got away, deputies were able to trace it back to its owner.
After researching social media accounts, they found the owner has a son named David Au. Au fit the description of the Turkey hill robber, and has a neck tattoo consistent with surveillance photos.
Later on February 6, the Donatos Pizza restaurant in Delaware reported a robbery, with a suspect matching Au’s description. Forty minutes later, a robbery was reported at the Goodwill near U.S. 23 and Powell Road in Lewis Center. Again, the description of the robber matched Au.
A Delaware County detective then spotted the Ford Focus and followed the car into Franklin County. That detective said he witnessed Au rob the Family Dollar at 937 East Dublin Granville Road while waiting for Columbus police. Detectives followed as Au traveled south on I-71.
Columbus Police attempted to pull over the vehicle, but police say Au again tried to run, ramming several vehicles in the process. He was eventually taken into custody at Cleveland Avenue and East 17th Avenue in Columbus.
Detectives in Delaware County filed charges against Au for the Goodwill robbery. Columbus police charged Au for the Family Dollar robbery. He is also being held on the human trafficking and prostitution charges.
Charges specific to the other robberies could come once the case is presented to grand juries in both Franklin and Delaware counties.
A passenger in the car, 27-year-old Kaitlyn Penwell, is also charged with the Franklin County Family Dollar robbery. No charges have been filed against her in Delaware County.