Police find stolen wallet belonging to retiring teacher

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WHITE PINE, Tenn. (WVLT) One man is behind bars after police say he snuck out of a school assembly to take a teacher's wallet.

Police arrested and charged Jarrod Cooper with stealing the wallet at White Pine School, and using the victim's debit card at three different stores.

The White Pine officers who tracked down cooper had a special connection with the victim.

Not long ago, the police officers were students in Sherry Pewitt's class at White Pine Elementary, a school where she taught for 35 years.

Earlier this week, she retired from teaching. In fact her final full day with students was on Wednesday, the same day Cooper was at the school for an assembly.

"At first I thought I'd misplaced it (her wallet) because I've been scattered and busy these past few days," said Pewitt.

But she did not. While she was in the cafeteria for her final school assembly before retirement, surveillance cameras caught Cooper sneaking down this hallway.

At 10:21, he walked into Mrs. Pewitt's room. Police say he then snuck outside with her wallet, and before 1:00 had been to three stores and spent almost $500.

Police say they tracked her debit card being used at a Walmart and Lowe's in Morristown, and a Walgreens in Jefferson City.

White Pine PD officers Darin Lane and Chad Cotter were both in Pewitt's class years ago, and didn't want her to end her career on a sour note.

"So we put a little extra effort into getting our hands on the person that was responsible for it, and ultimately we were able to," said Lane.

They found Cooper in Morristown and the wallet at his home in Strawberry Plains.

"And then the next morning, they have my wallet, my driver's license, my debit card," said Pewitt.

Pewitt stood excitedly with her former students as she took pictures, getting ready to enjoy retirement.

"I'm so proud of them, and I'm so proud of that White Pine has these young men working in White Pine," said Pewitt.

"To see teachers like her retire and see the job she did really means a lot to me and how she treated me when I was going to school, and how she treated my own kids when they went to school here," said Cotter.

As of Friday night, Cooper is still behind bars at the Jefferson County Jail.

He's charged with theft in White Pine, along with fraudulent use of a debit card in Jefferson City and Morristown.

Police say he bought gift cards, sold them, and used the cash to buy pills. Cotter says Cooper admitted he did that to officers.

In another twist, Pewitt says she does know Cooper. She told Local 8 News they chaperoned a trip to Washington DC with a couple of years ago, which his son was on.

She said he's a nice man, but that she knows he has a drug problem.

In fact police said he was supposed to check into a drug rehab facility tonight. But instead, he's in jail.

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