February 27, 2011

The case of the interrupted burglar

  It’s late January in suburban Washington, D.C., as a vicious snowstorm batters the entire Delaware Valley from Northern Virginia to New England. Traffic is a nightmare, but that’s only part of the problem police are having in suburban Maryland.
  In Montgomery County, next door to Northwest Washington, there have been 40 burglaries, all committed during the snowstorm. So far cops are clueless. But that’s about to change.
  It’s late afternoon as a young man returns home only to hear strange sounds upstairs. As he runs up to the master bedroom he finds a window open with the screen laying below in the snow.
  Running downstairs to try to get a glimpse of the burglar, he sees a guy with a red stocking cap dash by the kitchen window. The young man gives chase but there are only snow tracks to follow. The burglar gets away, but not entirely. Clues have been left behind.
  Forensic cops photograph the frozen snow tracks which reveal sharp images of boot tread, including cuts and nicks which make the prints unique.
  One more important clue is found inside the house — a Cricket Sanyo cellphone plugged into a charger. The phone does not belong to anybody in the household. A cop wonders: “Could we be that lucky?”
  The phone is recharged in a car charger and its phone-list is studied. One listing has possibilities, so a detective makes the call to a woman named Barbara who answers the call with, “Hey, Clayton!”
  The cop takes a chance and identifies himself, then asks for information about her boyfriend, “because he’s involved in a police incident.” The ruse is true, but not in the way the girlfriend thinks. Now the cops have Clayton’s address — right nearby in Silver Spring.
  When the cops arrive, Clayton is attempting to flush some of the booty down the toilet. He’s busted for 10 cases of burglary and bond is set, in Montgomery County Court, at $1 million.
  Detectives expect to close more cases, but with Clayton’s arrest the number of burglaries in suburban Maryland dramatically decreases.

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