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Mount Pleasant police say a 55-year-old Racine man is facing child abandonment charges after using his son to steal bottles of liquor from Piggly Wiggly.

Larry Conner was charged Wednesday in Racine County Circuit Court with felony abandonment of a child and one misdemeanor county each of retail theft and contributing to the delinquency of a child. If convicted, he faces up to 11-1/2 years in jail and/or up to $45,000 in fines.

According to the criminal complaint, store security at Piggly Wiggly, 5201 Washington Avenue, on both Monday and Tuesday Conner was observed on store surveillance video and in person putting bottles of liquor in a backpack worn by a 13-year-old boy.

Police say on Monday, surveillance video depicted Conner placing three bottles of liquor in the boy’s backpack. Next, the defendant went to another aisle to get bottles of orange juice and exit the store without paying for either the liquor or the juice. Conner was seen on video getting into an Aerostar van and leave the parking lot.

Tuesday, store security witnessed Conner and the boy arrive at the store, and the backpack the boy was carrying appeared empty. Conner was identified based on the shirt he was wearing Monday and again on Tuesday. When security next observed the boy they noticed he was alone, the backpack was full, and the boy appeared to be struggling under its weight, the complaint reads. He was intercepted as he tried to exit the store and led into the loss prevention office.

Conner’s vehicle was stopped by Racine County Sheriff’s deputies at the gas station across the street. Deputies say he smelled strongly of intoxicants and was placed in custody for both retail theft and operating while intoxicated.

Inside the store, the boy was questioned, and he said Conner placed the liquor in his backpack and told the boy to leave the store and get in the van, according to the complaint.

When officers talked to Conner, he denied having been in the store or stealing anything. Police say Conner eventually admitted to placing the alcohol in the backpack but not carrying it outside the store, even going so far to say the boy is “mentally retarded” and doesn’t drink alcohol so “it wouldn’t make sense for him to steal the alcohol on his own.” The defendant also said his wife recently passed away and his son in Chicago was murdered so providing for his children was difficult.

Conner remained in the Racine County Jail as of Wednesday night on a $750 cash bond. His preliminary hearing is Nov. 5.

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