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Footprints lead to Brownsville theft suspect

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Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Police in Fayette County followed footprints in the snow to identify a man accused in a purse snatching.

Thomas Allen Drake, 24, of 610 South Hills Terrace, Brownsville, is charged by borough police with robbery, theft, receiving stolen property, simple assault and terroristic threats.

In a criminal complaint, police said a 56-year-old woman told them she was robbed of her purse at knife-point while standing at the entrance to the South Hills Terrace housing complex at 9:36 p.m. Monday. The woman said the masked man grabbed her, fought with her, knocked her down, took her purse and ran toward the apartment complex.

Police followed footprints to an apartment. When they knocked on the door, an occupant opened it and an officer noticed a pair of wet shoes. The tread pattern matched those of the snowy footprints, according to the complaint.

Police searched the apartment with one of the occupant's consent, where they found gloves and a ski mask on steps leading upstairs. Drake was in an upstairs room.

Officers found additional footprints outside behind the apartment with the same tread pattern as those at the robbery scene. They followed them to a wooded area, where they recovered the victim's purse, police said.

The victim was able to identify Drake as the accused robber, police said. Drake initially denied involvement to police, then admitted to taking the purse.

Drake was arraigned before South Union District Judge Joseph George Jr. and placed in the Fayette County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bond. He faces a preliminary hearing on Feb. 12 before Redstone District Judge Mike Defino Jr.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media.

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