Lexington police arrest suspect in theft at school

James Nelson Watts IV
James Nelson Watts IV

Lexington police arrested a man Monday on charges of gaining access to a private school during basketball practice and stealing a player's iPhone.

James Nelson Watts IV is charged with third-degree burglary, and police are investigating whether he is behind at least three similar crimes in Lexington. Watts was arrested Monday afternoon and was questioned by police.

Watts allegedly gained access to Blue Grass Baptist School on Red River Drive by telling staffers he was authorized to fix faulty lighting in the boys' locker room, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said.

One of the players discovered that his phone was missing when he returned to the locker room after practice, she said. The theft was reported Jan. 28.

Blue Grass Baptist School is an accredited, Christian-based school for kindergarten through 12th grade. An administrative assistant said principal Kevin Davidson did not want to comment.

Roberts said police wanted to question Watts about three thefts at local restaurants. Police linked Watts to the school theft through tips from the public and from surveillance video at the school, she said, but evidence in the restaurant thefts was not clear enough early Monday to place charges.

During the last week of January, thefts were reported at Cheapside Bar and Grill, Atomic Café and Applebee's on Beaumont Centre Parkway.

"In each case, the thief "falsely identified himself to obtain access to the premises," police said in a news release.

At each of the three restaurants, the man said he was employed by Kentucky Eagle beer. He asked about supply and distribution. He stole electronics from employees and customers while chatting with managers and poking around the bar.

The description of the restaurant thief is similar to the description of Watts, and the thief stole mostly Apple products, including iPhones and iPads, Roberts said.

"But just because the description is similar and just because the method ... is similar is not enough at this point to obtain the warrant for the other cases," she said. "We will continue to investigate to try to determine whether this individual is responsible."

Roberts said police from "neighboring municipalities" were investigating similar cases.