BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) — A Hilton Head Island man has been sentenced to a decade in prison for stealing a tourist’s purse from her vehicle in the Burkes Beach area.
On Thursday, a Beaufort County General Sessions Court jury found 48-year-old Joseph Cooper guilty of larceny. Circuit Court Judge Robert Bonds handed down the maximum penalty, a 10-year prison sentence.
“This was a callous act committed by a man who has a long history of crimes of this nature,” said Assistant Solicitor Jared Shedd of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, who prosecuted the case. “He has shown no regard for the rights and property of others, even after receiving shorter prison sentences in the past.”
Shedd called eight witnesses during one day of testimony at the Beaufort County Courthouse.
According to the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, the crime happened on Aug. 10, 2019, while a woman was vacationing from Ohio. Deputies responded to the parking lot area of Burkes Beach where someone had broken a window of her rental vehicle and stolen a purse from the rear floorboard.
Officials said the purse contained a bank card, $200 in cash, a tablet computer and prescription medicine.
As they reviewed surveillance footage of the area, law enforcement saw Cooper walking near the vehicle close to the time of the theft. A witness who agreed to give Cooper a ride from the area that morning, but who did not know what he intended to do, told investigators that Cooper got in the car carrying a woman’s purse that matched the description of the stolen one.
The jury acquitted Cooper of a charge of breaking into a motor vehicle but convicted him of larceny.
Cooper’s criminal history dates to 1990 and includes convictions for resisting arrest, grand larceny, malicious injury to property, shoplifting, domestic violence, trespassing and burglary. He has served at least six previous prison sentences in South Carolina.