Richland County deputies have arrested a man who allegedly stole a Rolex watch from a dead body while transporting it to a morgue.
Mitchell Melton, 42, was working with a subcontractor transporting bodies for the Richland County Coroner’s Office when he moved the victim’s body March 9. Officials did not identify the victim.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department investigators were notified an $11,000 Rolex watch was missing from the victim.
Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said normally all valuables are taken off the body at the scene but that there were extenuating circumstances as to why the watch was not removed before the body was transported.
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Watts learned the watch was missing when the family asked about it. He said officials confirmed the watch was missing because photos from the scene and the autopsy did not match up.
Watts said his office had used the company for more than 20 years. He called the theft a “disgusting act” and will look for any inconsistencies from past transportations in which Melton was involved.
“You just shake your head,” he said. “What in the world is going through someone’s mind to do something like that?”
Lott said the value of the stolen item was not as important as the fact Melton violated trust and the law.
“It didn’t matter if it was a Mickey Mouse watch,” he said. “It’s the fact that he stole something.”
Sheriff Leon Lott said Melton is not cooperating, and it will be up to investigators to find out if there are more victims.
Watts and Lott, who announced the arrest during a press conference Friday, said they had not seen a case of theft from a body in the 20 years in their positions.
Deputies arrested Melton at a family member’s residence on Legrand Road Wednesday morning. He was charged with grand larceny.
The department was able to locate the stolen watch at a family member’s residence in Fairfield County.
Watts said the watch was sentimental to the family.
“That was a very tough conversation to have with them,” he said.