CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County sheriff’s investigators think they not only solved the mystery of who stole $400,000 worth of silver coins from a safe at a home, but also recovered most of the money.
Stephen Aaron Barnes, 37, of Destin was charged last Thursday with grand theft of more than $100,000, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators say Barnes took the coins from a safe at his mother’s home on Lake Ella Road northeast of Crestview and buried them in three locations on the property.
The money reportedly belonged to Barnes’ stepfather and was to be part of his divorce settlement with Barnes’ mother, the release said. But when Barnes' stepfather went to retrieve the money Aug. 30, he was unable to get into the safe and had to call a locksmith, the release said.
After the safe was opened, he found the coins and a rifle missing. He told investigators he had last seen the items during a visit in November 2017.
He also said his estranged wife was to receive the coins or be given a check for what they were worth, the release said. Barnes' mother told deputies she did not know what happened to the money.
Barnes was developed as a suspect and later confessed to taking the coins, according to the news release. He allegedly said he was mad at his stepfather for the suffering he had caused his mother during the couple’s on-going divorce proceedings. He said he buried the coins in three spots on the property, according to the release.
Investigators dug up nearly all the boxes of $1 silver coins Sept. 20. The investigation is ongoing.