By Terry Lane
A Wrightsville Beach bar owner was featured on a national news broadcast last weekend after the story of his efforts to help a teen thief was covered across the region.
Jimmy’s at Red Dogs owner Jimmy Gilleece was featured on the Friday, April 6, CBS Evening News in a segment called “On the Road with Steve Hartman.”
The segment told the story, reported in the March 29 Lumina News, of how Gilleece found the wallet that contained a ring by an out-of-town patron that was taken by a 17-year-old homeless teen wandering through town named Rivers Prather.
Prather came forward about taking the wallet, which was left by the woman on a bench outside of the bar, and told Gilleece that he had thrown the wallet into Banks Channel. He told Gilleece he only took the cash to use for food, leaving the ring in the wallet.
The CBS piece first focused on how Gilleece hired divers to find the wallet, and recover the ring for the woman. But the segment also focused on how Gilleece then took the teen into his home while helping find a place for him to live.
“I’ve been shocked at how it escalated,” Gilleece said of the story’s spread. “I think people are looking for good news.”
Following on CBS’s lead, several outlets have picked up on the story, including some of Gilleece’s favorites, including the nationally syndicated radio show John Boy & Billy, and The Chive, a humor website.
The story has generated a lot of attention, said Gilleece, noting he has hundreds of unread emails. But the added attention has also generated donations, which have been set up in an escrow checking account.
Had the ring not been found, Prather could have faced felony larceny charges. Instead, being that the theft was a first offense, he was put in a county misdemeanor diversion program.Alongside some day work at Jimmy’s at Red Dogs, the teen is also working for a local charter boat company.
Gilleece said the first priority for Prather was to find a place for the teen to live.