Nicholas Delbrugge, 20, and his sister Ashley, both former residents of Flagler County and the son and daughter of former Flagler School Superintendent Bill Delbrugge, were arrested this evening in Deltona and charged with snatching a girl scout’s cookie money from her hands four days earlier.
Sunday’s incident took place in mid-afternoon when a 12-year-old girl selling cookies outside of a Walmart entrance on Howland Boulevard was approached by a white man who snatched her cash box she had been holding on to–because she’d suspected something was amiss with the man–and ran toward the parking lot, according to a sheriff’s report, before jumping into a waiting car, a newer-model gray Hyundai Santa Fe, with North Carolina tags. A 43-year-old woman witnessed the incident and described it in similar terms.
The box contained about $200.
Surveillance footage showed the suspect approaching the store with a white female wearing a pink jacket and walking with a small child. The group walked back to their vehicle for several minutes, after which the male suspect returned to steal the money.
Thursday evening, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had arrested Nicholas Delbrugge and Winters after they’d returned to Deltona from North Carolina.
A sheriff’s release indicates that investigators had been onto the pair since Tuesday, when a New Smyrna Beach police officer who saw surveillance images of the suspects told Volusia County Sheriff’s Investigator T.J. Pullin that the male suspect appeared to be Delbrugge, someone he’d arrested in the past. Delbrugge was arrested last February on a battery charge and a possession of drug paraphernalia charge, and a year before on a marijuana possession charge. He is an adopted son of Bill Delbrugge, a much-celebrated superintendent of Flagler schools from 2005 to 2010 until he took a job directing an international school in Cairo. He has since moved up in the school’s parent organization, moving to the United Arab Emirates. He has kept close contacts with friends and colleagues in the county through his Facebook page, which, however, had been taken down this week.
The investigator started looking into Nicholas Delbrugge, locating his Facebook profile and noticing photos of the suspect sitting in the passenger seat of a newer-model vehicle. Knowing the suspects were seen leaving in a newer-model Hyundai Santa Fe, Pullin compared the Santa Fe’s standard interior to the interior in the photos and noticed strong similarities.
Next came an anonymous phone call from a tipster identifying both Delbrugge and Winters as the suspects in the surveillance photos in a release the sheriff’s office issued Monday. Pullin went to the address where both suspects were said to be living, and met with their grandfather, who looked at the surveillance photos and confirmed the images were of Delbrugge and Winters. The pair had already left for North Carolina that morning.
Meanwhile, the 12-year-old victim gave a more detailed account of the incident. She said the male and female had approached her Girl Scout table Sunday, and the female kept asking questions about the cookies. The male kept staring at the cash box. Both suspects went inside the Walmart, but came back out about a half-hour later. Because of his suspicious actions earlier, the victim held onto the metal cash box – but the suspect grabbed it and took off into the parking lot. The leader of the Girl Scout troop estimated the box contained about $200 cash.
On Wednesday, the victim picked Delbrugge out of a photo lineup.
Also Wednesday, Winters’ husband contacted the Sheriff’s Office after researching the case online. He confirmed that the woman suspect in the surveillance image was his wife, the juvenile with her was their daughter, and the Hyundai Santa Fe was their vehicle.
The Sheriff’s Office obtained warrants for the suspects Wednesday afternoon. The suspects turned themselves in at the Volusia County Branch Jail and were arrested without incident around 5:40 p.m. Delbrugge was charged with robbery by sudden snatching and petit theft with a bond of $150,000. Winters was charged with being a principal to robbery by sudden snatching and petit theft with a bond of $50,000.