published Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

New questions arise about Bessie Smith Strut theft in Chattanooga

A police document shows that the man charged in the Strut festival theft admitted to stealing less than half of what the Bessie Smith Cultural Center says is missing.

An arrest report for Torrey Hines, 35, details his confession to taking cash from a drawer inside an office in the center on the morning of June 10, just hours after the Strut festival ended.

Hines turned himself in Monday and faces a July 15 court date. He is out of jail on bond.

But when he met with investigators at the police service center this week, Hines brought $39,921, said he had already spent about $2,500 on gas and bills and denied taking anything more.

Meanwhile, the arrest report says Bessie Smith Cultural Center officials told police that $88,932 was missing.

Hines worked at the center and confessed that he used a key to let himself in the building before using a sledgehammer to beat a hole into an office door so he could enter the office and access the money.

"Torrey is guilty of breaking in, burglarizing, robbing and the things they accused him of," city councilman Moses Freeman said Wednesday. "There's no might in my mind about that. That's clear. But I believe him when he says that he gave us all the money."

Both Hines and Bessie Smith Cultural Center president Rose Martin declined to comment on the case.

For more, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.

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