June 27, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 25

Police identify 2 burglary suspects

Haines Borough Police have identified two Haines men as primary suspects in the June 17 spree of vehicle break-ins, when more than 30 unlocked cars were rifled and raided downtown.  

Police also suspect the 18-year-old and 19-year-old may have been involved in the burglary of a Lynnview Drive residence on the same evening as the break-ins.

Interim police chief Simon Ford said the men are denying the allegations and are claiming they “were framed.” The suspects offered names of the people they believe framed them, and police are investigating those individuals, as well as several other “persons of interest.”

Ford said officers are busy logging about 90 items seized during a June 19 search of a white Chevy Malibu parked in a lot at Third Avenue and Main Street. Officers are also conducting interviews with victims, witnesses and residents in the affected areas in order to build a case, Ford said.

 “Right now we have reasonable suspicion, which doesn’t give you enough to take someone into custody,” he said.

Several witnesses saw the two men walking around areas hit by the thieves on the night of the crime, but could only provide general descriptions. “When you’re out walking your dog and you see a couple of kids on the road, you’re not thinking, ‘I’m going to have to describe them in detail and identify them some day for a police investigation,’” Ford said.

The two men left for Wrangell after the break-ins, with police permission.

Items stolen included cash, credit cards, prescription medication, car stereos, binoculars, cameras, electronics and other valuables.

Some of the recovered items will be sent to the state crime lab in Anchorage for fingerprinting, Ford said. “Fingerprint dusting is kind of a Hollywood thing. You don’t really often have quality fingerprints that solve crimes. It does happen, but it happens on TV more than it happens in real life. But with some of these surfaces on here, I think there are some very good fingerprints.”

Police secured fingerprint samples from several suspects and Ford is drafting a search warrant so the Wrangell police department can collect prints from the chief suspects. Results from the crime lab are expected in six to eight weeks.

Whether police will be able to make an arrest before the results come in is up in the air. Ford said he received advice from assistant district attorney Amy Williams recommending police hold off on pressing charges until their investigation is more advanced to prevent Alaska’s 120-day “right to a speedy trial” law from kicking in.

 “There are certain things that toll that period of time, but I can›t guess whether those might arise or what they might be,” Williams said. “Therefore, in order not to waste that time and under certain circumstances, we don’t arrest or charge people unless we feel reasonably confident that the investigation is complete.”

Ford knows, though, that there is public pressure to make a quick arrest and secure a conviction in this case.

“I think everybody’s kind of holding their breath. This is a really meaningful case to people, because I think it changes the way people live. There are going to be people that change their behavior because of this forever, so I think they want to see something done,” he said.

Anyone with information about the vehicle break-ins should call police at 766-2121.