OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – About 4,000 pounds of peaches were stolen from a Clemson University orchard this month.
On August 22, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office was called to Musser Fruit Research Farm, owned by Clemson University, for a report of stolen peaches.
The employees told investigators they keep “meticulously detailed records” of each tree and realized that many of their peaches were missing.
“The information we had indicated that about 4,000 pounds worth of peaches, probably estimated of value of about $3,000 to $5,000, were stolen from the farm,” Master Deputy Jimmy Watt of the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said.
Investigators believe the first set of peaches was stolen between August 13 and August 22, and a second set was stolen between August 23 and August 24.
Deputies said the suspects may have accessed the farm by cutting through through locks.
“There were some locks to the facility that were cut,” Watt said.
Clemson’s team told investigators they called produce stand vendors to ask if the stolen peaches had possibly been bought. One vendor in Powdersville told Clemson that a man tried to sell their produce stand a “truckload of peaches.” The vendor said they did not buy the peaches because they recognized they came from Clemson’s orchard.
Clemson’s researchers told deputies their peaches are known as “Big Red” breed peaches because they are large.
Two men, Donald Andrew New, and Scottie Phil Randall Ledford, have since been arrested in connection with the theft. They have been charged with two counts of trespassing, two counts of grand larceny and two counts of damaging or destroying farm products. New and Ledford have been released on bond.
Watt said some of the stolen peaches have been recovered. But, Clemson’s employees told law enforcement the theft robbed them of a year’s worth of research.
The investigation is ongoing.