CHARGED: Racine man accused of stuffing liquor into backpack worn by his special needs son

RACINE COUNTY (WITI) -- A Racine man is charged, accused of stuffing liquor into his 13-year-old son's backpack while they were inside a Piggly Wiggly store.

55-year-old Larry Conner faces two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge, including retail theft -- intentionally taking less than $500, contributing to the delinquency of a child and child abandonment.

Conner has a history of convictions dating back to 1998, including bail jumping, disorderly conduct, a possession of a controlled substance.

This past Tuesday, October 28th, police were dispatched to the Piggly Wiggly store on Washington Avenue in the Village of Mount Pleasant, after a loss prevention officer told dispatch she recognized a suspect from an earlier theft, who may have been leaving in a vehicle. The criminal complaint filed against Conner says loss prevention officials had a juvenile in custody.

Police learned Conner had left the store in a vehicle with a female occupant.

The loss prevention officer told police she was reviewing video surveillance, as Piggly Wiggly had suffered many thefts of alcohol in recent days. The complaint says the loss prevention officer was reviewing a theft from October 27th, in which an adult was seen with a juvenile who was wearing a backpack. The loss prevention officer told police the video showed the man selecting bottles of vodka and then placing them into the juvenile's backpack.

The complaint says the man sent the juvenile out of the store, and then selected two small orange juices -- not paying for the juice or the alcohol.

After reviewing the surveillance video, the complaint says the loss prevention officer went outside to check for empty bottles of alcohol that may have been stolen from the store. That's when she told police she noticed the suspect vehicle and the man who appeared to be the man from the video walking with a juvenile. The loss prevention officer noticed the man was wearing the same clothing he was seen in on the video, and the juvenile was wearing a backpack that appeared to be empty. Later, she observed the juvenile exiting the store and his backpack appeared to be full, according to the complaint.

The complaint says the juvenile was eventually identified as Conner's 13-year-old son.

Conner's vehicle was stopped by a Racine County Sheriff's deputy at a gas station near the Piggly Wiggly store, and he was taken into custody.

Conner was emitting a strong odor of intoxicants, and the complaint says after performing field sobriety tests, Conner was arrested for OWI, in addition to the retail theft charge.

Conner was taken to the police department, where he was interviewed. The complaint says he initially denied ever going to the Piggly Wiggly store, but when told about the surveillance video, he changed his story -- saying he went to the store for some grape juice, but didn't purchase any -- leaving the store.

When an officer told Conner what he observed on surveillance video, the complaint says Conner admitted to taking his son into the store and placing bottles of alcohol into his backpack.

The complaint says Conner told police his juvenile son is special needs, and said his wife passed away last year, and another son was recently murdered in Chicago. Conner told police with the loss of his wife, his income had been reduced greatly, saying he couldn't afford to put food on the table for his children.

Conner will be in court on November 5th for his preliminary hearing in the theft case.