October 11, 2017
Update, Oct. 11, 2017: Pennsylvania State Police announced Wednesday, Oct. 11, that a warrant has been issued for Jeffrey Hoffman, 49, who is charged with theft for stealing eggs from the stand. Said a spokesman, "His whereabouts are currently unknown. However, he could be in the Bally, Boyertown, Hereford area." Anyone with information about his location is asked to call the State Police Reading barracks at (610) 378-4011.
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When she and her family moved to Berks County from the mid-South two years ago, among the first things they noticed were the roadside stands throughout their rural community.
Since they raised chickens, they saw an opportunity to sell eggs to passersby and set up a stand of their own about a year ago.
“The kids would collect eggs twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening,” explained Denise Carey Timer of her 13-year-old son and 10- and 5-year-old daughters. “They washed them and put them into a cooler. Either $3 for a dozen or $4 for a dozen and a half.
“We went by the honor system," she explained. "There was a tin with a note saying you could leave cash or check and to call or text if you need more.”
Before long, they’d realize that one “customer” didn’t abide by much of an honor code.
At first, they noticed a dozen would go missing without payment.
That soon escalated to, “Hey, there’s two dozen missing and all money is gone,” said Timer.
That’s when she decided to get police into the mix, a move which would send her story into the national consciousness after spreading via television, print and online media outlets.
As crime stories go, the August 9 press release from the Pennsylvania State Police didn’t rise to the level of tragic proportions.
“Egg theft from roadside stand” read the curious subject line that highlighted the story out of Hereford Township, Berks County.
“Due to numerous thefts, they have only been leaving out a dozen eggs at a time and set up a security camera to help solve the mystery,” it read.
Thanks to the kindness of neighbors, a pair of trail cams captured images of a white man with a tattoo of what “possibly looks like a bull’s head” on his right forearm.
Footage showed him driving a “white transit-style van with unknown registration" to make his escapes.
“It happened a couple times a week when this gentleman – I shouldn’t even call him a gentleman, actually – would come by,” Timer said.
With the trail-cam footage, “you could tell it was the same guy” who would generally stop by between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
For more than a month, the crime went unsolved but tips were coming in.
Now, per Timer and Trooper David Beohm of the State Police’s Reading troop, investigators know who’s to blame.
In recent weeks, police have said an arrest is imminent, but no formal announcement was available on Monday afternoon.
As she and her family await that pending arrest, Timer told PhillyVoice about the impact the thefts had on her family.
“When I called the State Police, I just wanted to make a report so they would know it was continuing to happen. Well, the story just blew up,” she said of the outpouring of support.
“We weren’t asking, 'Should we even do this anymore?'" she continued. "We talked about how the majority of people in the world are good, but people are going to steal so you have to protect yourself."
"Whether anything comes out of this or not, no one’s disheartened." –Denise Carey Timer
They have switched up their roadside-stand protocols, though.
“We’re not leaving eggs out so much anymore, but we still have plenty of people who stop by the house and knock on the door," she said. "When I went to the dentist the other day, the receptionist asked ‘Did you catch the egg thief yet?’ When we were at the fair, people said they saw us on TV.”
On the plus side, the alleged thief – said to be a transient man with other warrants out for his arrest and whose mother lives not too far from the egg stand – hasn’t been back, at least more than once.
“When I was waiting for the bus to bring my daughter home from kindergarten, I think I saw him haul ass by in his white van,” she said. “I couldn’t get my phone out quickly enough to get a picture, though. I think he knows (he’s wanted for the thefts.)”
She lauded, however, “the power” of the media spreading word of the story so widely and the kindness of neighbors who helped ostensibly crack the case.
“All that really helped out. That small community feel helped make sure he won’t get away with it,” she said.
As for the formal arrest, though, “I’m still waiting to hear. Whether anything comes out of this or not, no one’s disheartened."