WAXAHACHIE

Michael Kennedy Louis, 54, was found guilty by an Ellis County jury for theft of property after a string of jewelry store robberies that included the Lancaster resident concealing diamonds in his mouth.

The jury needed just thirty minutes to return a guilty verdict Tuesday, sentencing Louis to 20 years in a state prison.

According to court records provided by the Ellis County and District Attorney's Office, Louis entered Wiley's Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in Waxahachie and stole a diamond multi-stone engagement ring on Aug. 31, 2015.

"Louis had called the store earlier that day and explained that he would be in later to look for a gift for his ill wife," court records state. "Later that day, a vehicle arrived and backed into a parking spot on the far side of the building, away from the view of the entrance to the store. Louis exited as the passenger and entered the business with a limp. He introduced himself with a false name, Joe Williams."

Louis then explained to the saleswoman that he "had cataracts" and needed to examine the ring more closely. Video surveillance showed Louis then distracted the saleswoman, hid the $2,500 ring in his mouth and promptly exited the store — without a limp.

According to the Ellis County and District Attorney's Office, a CBS news story aired shortly after and led to the identification of Louis. The report also connected Waxahachie Police investigators with Fort Worth Police investigators, who were already seeking the whereabouts of Louis after similar thefts in Fort Worth.

Court records also state Fort Worth Police Sergeant Jonathan Rhoades detailed the similar thefts committed by Louis across the area to the jury.

"In those cases, Louis also called the store before his arrival, had an exaggerated limp, and gave a false story about having cataracts and an ill wife," documents state. "It was believed he did these actions in an attempt to gain the trust and sympathy of the saleswomen. While Sergeant Rhoades was investigating the Fort Worth cases, he learned that Louis had committed the same offenses across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and surrounding counties."

Prosecutor Habon Mohamed, Assistant Ellis County and District Attorney, also presented Louis' previous 24 convictions for theft-related offenses to the jury, with the majority related to thefts of jewelry. Fellow prosecutor Nicole Dempsey asked the jury to take into account that Louis was targeting family-owned small jewelry businesses, as well as his lengthy criminal history when determining the appropriate punishment.

The jury assessed Louis a $10,000 fine and sentenced him to 20 years in prison, which is the maximum punishment allowed for this offense. Judge Gene Knize, of the 40th Judicial District of Ellis County, ruled that the sentence would run consecutively with a seven-year sentence Louis previously received for a jewelry theft in Henderson County.