It was a scene of pure Americana: A community swimming pool on a sunny Fourth of July, outside of which two young girls had set up a stand to sell patriotic hats and T-shirts, trying to help their dad’s struggling business during challenging economic times.
The only missing element from this modern-day Norman Rockwell painting dropped into place when an all-American cheerleader showed up to politely peruse their wares.
The trouble is: According to police, this cheerleader was a thief. Fortunately, some ingenious cybersleuthing helped the Georgia family catch her.
Following the cybertrail
When a teenage girl snatched $147 from the table where two daughters of Joe Green had set up their booth, the girls screamed — and their father went into high-tech action after someone at the pool said he thought the thief was a local cheerleader named Chelsea.
“A friend of ours had an iPhone, and we got on the Web site of the high school she attended,” Green told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Friday.
“We went to the cheerleader page; then we went to her Facebook page. Her face popped up. That’s her!”
Green notified police, who later arrested Sprayberry High School cheerleader Chelsea Steele on charges of robbery and underage possession of alcohol.
Steele, 17, was released from the Cobb County jail Wednesday night on $5,000 bond.
Police say she stole the cash and ran off to a waiting white Ford Taurus with three other girls.
Remorse and regret
Steele’s lawyer gave TODAY a statement in which Steele apologized. It reads in part: “No words can adequately express her remorse and the family's regret for what happened ... She intends to cooperate fully with the police and prosecutors in their investigation of this case ... She hopes to have an opportunity in the future to apologize personally to the children, as well as to their families.”
Even so, Joe Green said he has not decided whether to drop charges against her. “It’s a tough decision,” he told Vieira. “I want her to learn a lesson from this. She affected all of us, our community.”
The girls enlisted their friends Meghan Cobler, 11, and Caroline Pierce, 9, to help with the holiday sale. All four girls came to Studio 1A with Joe Green.
‘She seemed nice’
“We thought it was kind of a cool idea,” Sydney told Vieira. The girls set up shop at 4 p.m. July 3, and business was brisk from the start. It was two hours later when Steele stopped by the booth and began chatting with the girls.
“I stepped up and introduced myself to Chelsea and I told her my story, about my business and what the girls were doing,” Green said. “She said, ‘Oh, how sweet,’ and she thought it was great. So she seemed nice.”
But when Green turned away, Steele allegedly grabbed the cash box on their table and ran.
“I was scared,” said Sophie Green.
Her sister Sydney was surprised. “One of my baby sitters is her age, so I usually think of those types of girls as sweet and caring. But I guess not.”
Green praised the community for their assistance. “We have great neighbors and friends. We wouldn’t have caught the robbers without their help. Surprisingly, no one really knew Chelsea. Maybe that tells you something about her.”
The Green girls abandoned their sale after the incident. But they got some good news earlier this week.
“A lot of people reached out to help,” Green said — including one man who donated $200 to the sale, more than making up for the theft.