Well, no, I didn’t have to stare my burglar in the face as he left my home with my stuff. Thank God. That would be petrifying. But I’m going to, tomorrow. Maybe by the time you read this (after 12 PM, June 10th) it will be over with.
Let me backtrack. January 19, 2017, I came home and everything seemed fine. That is, until my lovely tenant came running upstairs saying she thought she was broken into, and asking if I noticed anything off. Well, I hadn’t. But one look at her home, seeing the broken wall and complete mess, and that was the only explanation. She also mentioned a DS play-system was stolen, a couple of shavers (!) and some jewelry.
The police were called, they started taking notes and asked me again if anything was missing. I figured even though my candlesticks and computer were still there, I should check my jewelry. My heart sank as I noticed my whole jewelry bag on the floor. I knew I was not supposed to touch anything in case they needed prints, but I already realized the beautiful gold earrings my late Aunt Hannah left me were taken. I also thought he took my engagement bracelet, but later found it. My cleaning lady mentioned later that she found some drawers opened, but she thought that was just us being messy (insert embarrassed emoji). So basically, this guy knew what he was doing and rifled through all my stuff (ewwwwww), including my huge collection of costume jewelry, and only took what was valuable. It was almost funny that he took more from our lovely tenants in our basement apartment than from us in our three story house! But really, I joke now, but it was not funny. It was an awful, disgusting, violating feeling.
Downstairs, the police were there, asking questions and filling out paperwork. Bless my husband who decided it was important to install security cameras even though I didn’t really see the need. We sat and looked through the videos and it was almost a game guessing which stranger was going to be the ONE. And look, here he is.
HE PASSED OUR HOUSE. And than decided to come back. Notice that bag FULL of stuff, probably straight from another robbery. Then take a look at what he does.
Did you see that? RINGS THE DOORBELL!! Was he planning to say ‘Hi’ if we opened the door?? And then he SITS like he owns the place and is waiting for a friend! We later learn that’s called scoping, making sure it was a safe house to rob. After a couple of minutes, he’s convinced that no one will care if he breaks and enters, since I have zero neighbors watching or caring (I live across the street from a big adult day center, they don’t know what’s going on). So he goes and breaks the lock on the side of my house. BTW, the video above was the clearest shot that the detectives got of him. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We were waiting and waiting for him to come back out, and just check out the time stamp when he FINALLY decides to leave my home. It’s enraging. But this video is so entertaining, it gave us all some laughs on that very sad and tense day.
Poor fellow had to PUT DOWN HIS BAGS to open the gate. He literally looks like he’s going on vacation. We have since timed other guests to see how long it took them to open our gate and titled it ‘Are You Smarter Than Our Burglar?’. Watching the video, I also recognized the black vacation bag as my projector which I had recently bought from someone making Aliyah. Sigh.
As the hours passed, streams of people game in; the regular cops, evidence people, local volunteer cops (Rockaway Nassau Safety Patrol) and a fabulous Detective Russo.
Word started getting out with family and friends, and loads of encouragement and sympathy was pouring in. Of course this was Thursday night, but good friends send food and we ordered sympathy pizza and ate our hearts out. I told Adiel we had to move. He said “We have to catch this guy”. The cops and Detective Russo were thrilled with the videos, and how clear the burglar’s face was, but we were basically told that even if they catch the guy, we’re never going to see our stuff again. We still were very grateful that no one was home because they may have gotten hurt, although I guess there’s a chance it would not have happened if we were home. Still, he could have been dangerous. It was depressing and sad and for the next ten days, I wondered what the cops and detectives were even doing out ther,e and why they weren’t finding him. I was especially heartbroken that the earrings from my Aunt were taken. We also felt terrible that our tenants were broken into with us as landlords.
Until, one night, Detective Russ showed up, showed us a photo and asked if the jewelry in the photo was ours. We could not believe it. There was a photo of my earrings and a necklace and ring belonging to my tenant!! He had found them!! Detective Russo told us that he combed the local pawn shops, showing each owner a picture of our guy and looking at their footage, and managed to spot him! He used his own name and ID to pawn the items! Detective told us that officially police are allowed to keep our stuff as evidence (how crazy is that?!?!), but he’s going to take a photo and get it back to us. And slowly, but surely, he kept coming back with stuff. Sometimes we would look at the items and say ‘Hm, that’s not ours, but I like it, can i keep it? :D’
Finally, he told us he was ready to make an arrest. And when they did, they found a whole bunch more stuff including my projector and a boatload of stolen video games in his halfway house. Yes, halfway house. This man was actually out on parole when he did this. A wave of sadness washed over me that someone can have such a terrible life that they can’t even stop from committing crimes when they are out of jail for a small period of time. But I was mad at him as well, and mad at whatever broken home and community could produce such a repeat criminal who had no disregard for other people’s possessions and belongings.
When all was said and done, our fabulous detective caught the guy who was wanted for 13 robberies and got almost all of our stuff back. Incredible. My tenant and I were asked (well, really subpoenaed) to testify in grand jury last June. We were prepped by Assistant DA Tara Digregorio and it was a little nerve-wracking getting on the stand but at least we knew he wouldn’t be there. And I have to say it was an amazing feeling showing OUR very own video coverage to the members of the Grand Jury and the judge and testifying, that ‘No, I don’t know this man’ and ‘No, I never gave him permission to enter my home and take my stuff!’ ADA Digregorio called us a week after we testified to tell us that the burglar was indicted on all charge and, given the video footage, she was assuming he was going to take a plea. They were going to ask for a lot of jail time since he had been on parole, committed a whole slew of robberies and left a knife at the scene of one of them.
I all but forgot about him when I got yet another call from ‘Unknown’ a couple of weeks ago. It was a male, this time. Digregorio was on maternity leave (awwww) and he was taking over the case. And despite the clear evidence, he was not taking a plea, and it was going to trial in a couple of weeks. And once again, we were needed to testify. This time, our burglar and his defense attorney were going to be there too. ADA Jonathan Selkowe came to our house to prep us. He told us it’s pretty much like what you see on TV (I don’t watch Law and Order but I watched the Good Wife!). He reminded us to try not to mention what someone else told us (I did the heresay error last time and they were told to ‘strike it from the record’, just not bringing up my cleaning lady tomorrow). That he couldn’t ask us leading questions and not to get too flustered if there is an objection. He advised us to just answer the questions and that the evidence was still super clear against him even if they are hoping for some sort of missed piece of evidence or a witness not showing up. I literally looked at Johnathan and told him
‘This is just a game’ and he said
‘Yup, but you gotta play it’.
He also brought me my notes from the Grand Jury which was kind of fun. I have a school play all written up now.
So that’s it. Nearly 17 months after my home was burglarized and vandalized I am going to do my civic duty and face my burglar in court. Which is better than facing him in my home, but still scary. My tenant is coming too, they are sending a car for both of us; so at least we have each other, but we won’t be in the room together at the same time. I’m nervous as heck, but I’m just gonna answer the questions. I hope I don’t make eye contact with him. I hope the defense attorney is not too tough on me and doesn’t do too mant ‘Objection, Your Honors!’. I wonder how he’s gonna feel when he sees the video where he freakin’ can’t get out of the property he just broke into it. I hope he never has another opportunity to make someone feel the way I did that day, and I will say it was worth this happening to us so that we could help get him off the streets. But even though I’m nervous, I’m also grateful. You walk into these huge courthouses and realize just how many crimes are being tried. And I’m grateful, that I’m going to testify against a break-in, some stolen stuff, and nothing more serious. I can’t imagine how absolutely heartbreaking it must be to testify against someone who hurt, or did even worse, to someone you love.
I’ll keep you all posted.