Suspect on run from fatal B.C. crash now wanted for jewelry heist earlier that day

Nelson police believe the couple involved in a fatal crash near Hope, B.C., on Monday robbed a jewelry store earlier the same day — 10 hours earlier and 500 km away.

10 hours and 500 kilometres before a fatal crash near Hope, B.C., a jewelry store in Nelson was robbed

Ted Allen's Jewellery on Baker Street in Nelson, B.C. was hit by a smash-and-grab thief early Monday. (Bob Keating/CBC)

The suspect still on the run after a fatal crash near Hope, B.C. on Monday is also wanted for a jewelry heist nearly 500 kilometres away earlier that day, according to police.

A hammer-wielding thief smashed into Ted Allen's Jewellery in Nelson, B.C., at 4:30 a.m. PT, hitting the shop with an estimated $30,000 in damage and stolen goods in under a minute.

Sgt. Nate Holt said stolen licence plates were the first clue that connected the smash-and-grab in Nelson with the fatal crash that happened about 10 hours later along Highway 3.

A female passenger was killed when an SUV crashed into a highway maintenance vehicle on Highway 3 east of Hope on Monday. (Ozia Tube)

"We are confident that these events involve the same parties, and that the male driver responsible for the collision is also responsible for our break in here at Ted Allen's Jewellery," he said.

Police believe the female passenger who was killed in the crash, Danielle Charlton, 35, was with the male suspect in Nelson, said Holt.

"That's our suspicions, that both people were involved in the break and enter here too," said Holt.

The male suspect, who has not been named, is still on the run after allegedly stealing a truck to flee the scene of the Highway 3 crash.

Danielle "Deedee" Charlton, 35, was killed in a crash on Highway 3 east of Hope, B.C. Monday afternoon. (Facebook)

Plate stolen in Nelson found in crash

Nelson police believe the couple came to town in the stolen black Chevrolet Equinox that was later mangled in the Highway 3 crash, said Holt.

The vehicle was briefly spotted by police near Cottonwood Falls Park prior to the robbery, he said.

Several hours later, police got a report of licence plates stolen from a black Chevrolet Equinox a couple of blocks away from Ted Allen's Jewellery.

"What the suspects had done is [steal] plates from a similar type of vehicle ... in order to disguise themselves so they weren't caught," Holt said.

While the licence plate, jewelry theft and crash at first seemed unrelated, the dots began to connect when Hope RCMP later queried the same licence plate number that had been stolen in Nelson, said Holt.

Charlton's family has confirmed to CBC News that the suspect driver had ties to the Nelson area, and a witness told CBC reporter Belle Puri he had seen the black SUV near Osoyoos, along the highway between Nelson and the crash site.

Suspect 'dangerous'

Store owner Justin Pelant said security footage shows a vehicle pulling up to the Baker Street shop, and a man with a wig getting out.

"Someone pulled up in front, came up and used a fairly large hammer, smashed through the door, smashed up two showcases, grabbed some stuff and ran," Pelant said.

Pelant isn't giving an exact value or description for the stolen jewelry, but said it includes some unique pieces.

"We do a lot of custom work, so there's a couple one-of-a-kind pieces that we got, so they'll be very identifiable to people."

Justin Pelant, owner of Ted Allen's Jewellery in Nelson, B.C., stands in front of a smashed case after a thief grabbed fistfuls of jewels early Monday. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Much of the shop's jewelry was in the safe, he said.

Holt said police have a partial picture of the man's face, and he is well known to police in Nelson and elsewhere.

"The manner in which this break and enter took place was advanced by even a large centre standards," said Holt.

"It wasn't somebody who didn't know what they were doing. It was somebody who was practised in their trade, so to speak, and would be considered dangerous."

Holt said police believe the suspect is still in B.C., but the Canada Border Services Agency has been notified.

'The actions of a coward'

Members of Charlton's grieving family are hoping police find the suspect soon.

"It's definitely the actions of a coward," the victim's estranged husband Charlie Charlton told CBC News. "I think I'll be quite upset if he is not brought to trial for this, to stand responsible for his actions."

He said Danielle Charlton had a troubled life, but she was a loving mother to her four children.

"I think she really underestimated her motherly abilities," he said.

With files from Belle Puri