Hair Ya Go.....

from: Pat Pending

A Grandview man who police think "was just hung up on hair" is accused of stealing ponytails from a children's-wig charity in Belleville. Police who searched the home of Melvin G. Hanks, 54, of the 2200 block of Grandview Avenue last week found an assortment of ponytails and loose hair, authorities said Tuesday. "We don't know where this hair came from," said Sangamon County Sheriff Neil Williamson. "My guy (who recovered the hair) said that in 26 years, he'd never seen anything so weird. "Why someone would collect hair, I don't know. You think you've seen everything, and something else tops it." Hanks was arrested Thursday in Belleville, about 105 miles south of Springfield, for allegedly posing as a courier for the charity for the past 12 months in order to collect the ponytails. Hanks, who is charged with theft by deception, is being held in the St. Clair County Jail on $10,000 bond. On Friday, Sangamon County sheriff's deputies recovered 93 ponytails and enough loose hair to make 60 more in a bedroom of his house. "Apparently this guy was just hung up on hair," said Grandview Police Chief Michael Feleccia. Hanks is accused of taking 72 of the ponytails from a Belleville hair salon, Designer's Club, telling the salon the ponytails would be directed to a Florida-based organization called Locks of Love. The charity collects hair and monetary donations from people around the country and then provides hairpieces to poor children suffering hair loss due to cancer or alopecia, a condition that prevents hair growth. "I was in disbelief," said Jennifer Cox, executive director of Locks of Love, when she heard of Hanks arrest. "This is the first time to our knowledge that this has happened. I was shocked that someone would want to deprive children of this." Feleccia said Hanks was arrested after he visited the Belleville salon to collect more hair. During his January visit, Hanks apparently was rude to an employee of the salon. The woman then contacted Locks of Love and learned that the charity employs no couriers. When Hanks came to the store Thursday, she called Belleville police. "Upon his arrest, he signed a consent for police to search his house," Feleccia said. "They found the hair in a bedroom. "I knew the guy was strange. I saw him going through garbage cans. I don't know which was worse, this guy or the old sock man." Brian J. Boone, 30, of Virden, who is serving three years in prison for a probation violation, became locally infamous as "Sock Man" because of his apparent attraction to young girls' dirty socks and chewed gum. Neighbors said Hanks and his father moved to the Grandview home about four years ago. According to newspaper records, the family had lived in Alhambra, a small town about 10 miles southeast of Staunton, before Hanks' mother died in 1997. The neighbors said they frequently would see Hanks riding a bicycle, especially at night, and that he was fond of salvaging items from Dumpsters. "He used to bring us stuff he'd find in Dumpsters," said one neighbor. "His dad is elderly and has a hard time walking. I feel sorry for the dad." Hanks has no previous criminal record with Springfield or Grandview police. Hanks apparently contacted the Belleville salon after it hosted a hair drive sponsored by the Belleville Police Officers Benevolent Association on Feb. 11, 2001. The hair taken from the salon is valued at more than $21,000, based on the retail value of a human hair wig - an estimated $3,000 to $4,000. It takes 10 to 15 ponytails to make one high-quality wig. Cox said some of the hair recovered from Hanks' home might be salvageable. "It would depend on what condition it's in. It would have to be bound, and we'd have to know which direction it's growing in. If it's loose, we can't use it." The organization requires ponytails to be at least 10 inches and preferably 12 inches long. Hair must be free of damage or chemical processing. Hair can be mailed to Locks of Love. More information is available from the charity's Web site at www.locksoflove.org or by calling 1-561-963-1677. Cox said the group has been featured on a number of nationally televised programs. Sarah Antonacci can be reached at 788-1529 or sarah.antonacci@sj-r.com



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