Surgoinsville man accused of stealing donations to fund child's liver transplant

Jeff Bobo • Oct 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — Police are looking for a Surgoinsville man who allegedly stole donation money that was intended for a child in need of a liver transplant but abandoned the car he’d arrived in as he fled the area on foot.

The incident occurred Oct. 20 when Keith C. Armstrong, 33, allegedly snatched a donation bucket from the counter at the Dairy Cup restaurant in Mount Carmel.

Investigating Mount Carmel Police Department Officer Ken Lunsford said a warrant charging Armstrong with theft has been issued. Armstrong, who was last known to be staying with his parents in Surgoinsville, is scheduled to begin serving a jail sentence in Sullivan County on Nov. 9, and police suspect he may have fled the area.

Lunsford said that on the day of the donation bucket theft, Armstrong was accompanied by a female who drove him to the Dairy Cup.

The woman allegedly created a distraction when she dropped a drink on the floor.

Store employees were momentarily distracted, at which time Armstrong allegedly took his shirt off, draped it over the donation bucket, walked out of the store, and got into the woman’s vehicle.

“A clerk followed him outside and confronted him,” Lunsford said. “The suspect then pulled out of the parking lot and into the old car wash parking lot next door.”

Armstrong allegedly took the paper money donations and fled on foot, leaving about $33 in change on the floor of the car and on the ground.

MCPD Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said the child in need of the transplant is well-known in the community, and many people had given donations. There were several single dollar bills and even some fives and tens, Campbell said.

The total loss is estimated at about $100.

As Armstrong was fleeing on foot in one direction, the woman he’d arrived with reportedly went to the SKIPEZ market next door in the other direction to use the pay phone. While there she was confronted by witnesses, at which time she left.

The female was identified by witnesses and later questioned by police. Although she reportedly identified Armstrong, she denied any knowledge of Armstrong’s alleged intentions to steal the cash donations. Lunsford said the woman is not expected to be charged.

The vehicle that belongs to the woman has been impounded by police.

Anyone with information as to Armstrong’s whereabouts is asked to contact the MCPD at 357-9019.

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