Chandler police arrest ‘Wedding Crasher’ bandit
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Landon Rankin is in custody, facing an assortment of criminal charges. The former Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy is accused of crashing numerous weddings in the East Valley, in order to steal the bride and groom’s presents. Marcia and Michael O’Donnell are among the reported victims.
“Horrible things happen in the world every single day, but when it comes knocking on your door, it’s shocking, it hurts, it physically hurts,” said Marcia O’Donnell.
According to the O’Donnells, their daughter Katherine’s wedding was held at the StoneBridge Manor in Mesa on April 23rd. They said, just as the bride and groom were exchanging vows, a man who can be seen in the surveillance video, strolled over to the guest sign-in table, then walked off with the couple’s gift box that was filled with thousands of dollars in cash, checks and gift cards. He did his best to blend in.
“He had a shirt with a tie, slacks, dress shoes,” said Michael O’Donnell. “He’s the perfect late arriving guest, and he knew exactly what was going on, exactly when to be there, and pulled it off and out the door, he was gone.”
The wedding crasher bandit had reportedly hit a number of wedding venues in the Phoenix area recently. Close to a dozen couples have been ripped off in the past two months, according to Chandler police. In another incident, the wedding crasher bandit can be seen walking down the hall of a Chandler wedding venue after grabbing the gift box. Another security camera shows him going out the back door and running to his car. On Wednesday, there was finally a break in the case. Chandler Police arrested Rankin, 54, a former Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy. According to court records, Rankin was caught with wedding guest checks and gift cards still on him, along with some drug-related materials.
“Our detectives actually friended him on social media and found where he was living,” said Chandler Police Sgt. Jason McClimans. “We were able to put 2 and 2 together and we arrested him in Apache Junction at his home.”
Victims and their families were pleased to hear an arrest has been made, with the hope Rankin can’t ruin any more weddings. Nothing, however, can repair the stress and despair they felt, seeing their wedding box stolen and how it affected the big day.
“I remember the whole evening just having to fake a smile, fake my joy, fake all the fun I was really not having,” said Steve McWilliams, a groom’s father. “There’s a whole piece of our puzzle, of our life, of the happiest moment of our life, it’s missing forever.”
Another couple was also ripped off by the “Wedding Crasher” bandit. Right after their last dance Kaitlyn and Austin Wilcox realized their gift box was gone. “We had family and friends searching for an hour and a half after the wedding with us. It was like a gut punch because at that point we knew it was stolen,” said Kaitlyn.
Kaitlyn said what should’ve been a perfect day was spoiled. “You just took a great wedding, a perfect day, and you ended it with just absolute terrible news, an unfortunate way to end a perfect evening,” she said.
Despite the stolen gift box, the couple is now glad Rankin is in custody so other families won’t experience what the they went through. “Having to go through this ourselves is terrible to begin with but knowing that it can’t happen to another couple is a good feeling,” said Kaitlyn.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help one of the couples recoup some of the money that was stolen.
Rankin had been with the Pinal County Sheriff’s office for more than 20 years. He retired in 2015 and remained on reserve until 2017. Authorities are reaching out to other wedding venues to see if there are any more victims.
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