CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the jewelry world, the name of Doris Payne commands, if not respect, at least concern.
Police said Payne, who's 84, is a world renowned thief who's been stealing high-end jewelry for more than 50 years. Her crimes have been traced to Greece, Britain, France, Switzerland, Monte Carlo, and the United States.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department believes that on July 11, Payne took a $33,000 diamond engagement ring from David Yurman jewelers at South Park Mall.
They would not confirm that with Channel 9, but we obtained a copy of an email sent from police to several local jewelers following the heist.
"We're talking about Doris Payne, and her reputation walks far ahead of her," said Dovy Klarberg, co-owner of Diamonds Direct SouthPark. After receiving an email from CMPD naming Payne as the suspect in the theft at the mall, Klarberg alerted his staff to be on the lookout for her.
Payne is known to use slight of hand. She will ask to see a piece of jewelry, then slip it on her finger while a store employee is distracted. Klarberg even watched a documentary made about her life, and called her a clever person.
"It's a difficult level of sophistication, or I guess from her end, a level of professionalism," he said.
Some jewelry shoppers were stunned to think such a person could be in Charlotte, and still committing crimes.
"I guess she's had lots of time to practice," said Myra Southwell. "Still, it's sad that she's had to resort to that her whole life."
Payne has served prison time, and was apparently released within the last year. USA Today has reported that actress Halle Berry was considering playing her in a movie about her life story.
"That's just unreal. I can't imagine that happening," said Kellis Wiseman, also out shopping for jewelry Monday. "I can't believe she's gotten away with it for so many years."
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police will not discuss suspects in the heist at SouthPark Mall, and have not released any surveillance video of the crime. The email to local jewelers states that a Tiffany & Co. employee saw Payne and tried to alert another employee at David Yurman, but it was too late.
So far there have been no arrests. Employees at David Yurman would not comment when reached Monday afternoon.
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