ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Two police departments worked together to solve a series of robberies connected to a dating app.

Remember the December 2021 gas station shooting in Overland, in which a clerk was shot in the face? That case was later connected to carjackings in neighboring St. Ann.

St. Ann Police Lt. Monica Ruelas and Overland Police Cpl. Craig Preuss were key in putting together the pieces that led to the dating app connection.

“Suspects are getting creative, unfortunately,” Preuss said.

According to Ruelas, “the dating app was the center of the plot.”

Lt. Ruelas interviewed James Furlow, 20, one of two suspects just sentenced to federal prison in the crimes. It was a two-hour interview that began with few answers.

“Why do you keep lying to me?” Ruelas asked the suspect at one point.

Later, Furlow tried to escape the interview room through the ceiling.

“That was pretty entertaining to watch,” Ruelas said, “…because we were watching and we knew he wasn’t going to go anywhere.”

Patience paid off as Ruelas obtained consent to search the suspect’s phone and discovered a dating app the suspects used to lure victims who thought they might find love.

The carjackings occurred at ABC Ballpark in St. Ann in the middle of the day, just days apart. The violent gas station robbery happened in between. Police tracked the suspect’s car and learned of a possible connection to St. Ann’s dating app carjacking.

“We couldn’t say with 100% certainty that that was the vehicle, but just to have a lead to go off of gives us some kind of gives us hope in this case,” Pruess said.

Not only did it match, but federal prosecutors took the case. Two defendants pleaded guilty to the crime spree.

Furlow was sentenced this month to 18 years in prison for the robberies.

Furlow’s accomplice, Monya Jones, 23, was sentenced this past February to 13 years in prison for his role in the crimes.

“There’s a big feeling of fulfillment that we did our job and not only that, just to get the justice for the victim,” Preuss said.

Investigators said the gas station employee who was shot in the mouth returned to work within days. And the St. Ann carjacking victims also found justice.

“We want to make sure that our community is safe, whether they’re meeting up for a dating app or whether it is they’re meeting up for Facebook Marketplace, we want to keep our community safe,” Ruelas said.