Similar female jewelry heists puzzle investigators in three states

(CNN) -- The approaches are strikingly similar: Robber enters a jewelry store, whips out a gun and forces employees into the back before taking off with merchandise.

In each of three recent robberies, the suspect was described as a woman who allegedly tied up store employees before loading up on valuables. The robberies occurred in three states, at three different franchises, between early August and early September.

Authorities in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida are investigating whether there are connections between the three.

Georgia: Suspect had 'masculine build'

The first robbery, in August, targeted a Zales store Dawsonville, Georgia, about 60 miles north of Atlanta.

The robber was a woman with a \"masculine build,\" said Tony Wooten, a spokesman for the Dawson County Sheriff's Office.

She entered the store as soon as it opened in the morning, brandished a gun and made away with valuables worth an estimated $13,000, Wooten said.

\"She forced employees to the back of the store, where she zip-tied their hands before robbing the Zales,\" he said.

It appears she was acting alone, but authorities said they cannot rule out whether she had help.

She vanished into thin air, leaving authorities scrambling for clues.

Florida: $400,000 in merchandise stolen

About a week later, a woman robbed a Reeds store in Panama City Beach, on Florida's Gulf Coast.

In this case, the haul was much larger: merchandise worth more than $400,000.

\"The suspect was armed with a small firearm, zip-tied the two female employees and ordered them into the restroom,\" said Robert Clarkson of the Panama City Beach Police Department.

She then grabbed jewelry from the showcase boxes before taking off.

\"The employee stated the suspect had entered the store one day prior to the robbery and asked about the same items,\" Clarkson said.

South Carolina: She wore a lavender skirt

The next incident occurred last week at a Jared store on the South Carolina coast, in Bluffton.

In this case, the female robber showed up with a black handgun and forced the employees to the back of the store, where she tied them up, said Capt. Bob Bromage, a spokesman for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Department.

\"The female then fled the store and is believed to have left in a vehicle, although this was not observed by the employees,\" Bromage said.

The suspect was described as wearing a blue or purple striped shirt, a lavender skirt and a black, brimmed hat, CNN affiliate WJCL reported.

Many similarities, many questions

The three robberies occurred in neighboring states in the span of a month, and authorities are trying to determine whether they are connected.

Each of the three robberies involved a Caucasian woman acting alone, using a handgun and tying up employees, authorities said. The suspect in each case managed to steal merchandise.

But a host of questions linger: Are the robberies connected? Were they carried out by the same person or was it a team? Or are they cases of copycat crimes?

And most important: Will they strike again?

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