One year later, no charges in car break-ins

 


One year after 30 or more vehicles were ransacked downtown, the Haines Borough Police Department has yet to secure charges or convictions in the case.

Victims of the break-ins this week said they are “frustrated” and “disgusted” by the inaction, and have called the department’s refusal to return the recovered stolen items “ridiculous” and “completely irresponsible.”  

On the night of Monday, June 17, 2013, thieves rifled through more than 30 unlocked vehicles on Lynnview Drive, Young Road, Union Street, Deishu Drive, Front Street and other areas. Stolen items included cash, credit cards, prescription medication, tools, binoculars, stereo equipment, electronics cords, cameras, firearm ammunition and driver’s licenses.

Two days later, police obtained a search warrant for a white Chevrolet Malibu parked in a Main Street lot. Among items recovered from the car were five car radios, cameras, binoculars, knives, electronic devices, two bottles of liquor, power boosters, DVDs and a marijuana pipe.

Police processed more than 100 pieces of evidence, sent some items to the crime lab for analysis, took fingerprints out of vehicles and conducted interviews.

Eight months later, former interim police chief Simon Ford sent a thick case file to assistant district attorney Amy Williams with charges of criminal trespass, theft and criminal mischief for two Haines men, then aged 18 and 19.

The investigation materials and evidence supplied, though, weren’t good enough. “At that point there was further investigation necessary,” Williams said in an interview this week. “In that case, I declined it for prosecution.”

Two months or so ago, new evidence came to light. Williams would not elaborate on the new evidence, and police chief Bill Musser would not even confirm its existence.

Christy Tengs Fowler, whose son Chevy had his car ransacked, said officer Adam Patterson approached her about two months ago and told her the department had started returning evidence after Williams rejected the file. When the department returned one of the stolen cameras, the owner notified police there were photos on there the owner hadn’t taken.

“He said that somebody got one of the cameras and found pictures on it,” Fowler said. “(The camera) actually had pictures of the people responsible.”

Fowler said police wanted to take pictures of her son Chevy’s truck, “because I think they were matching it with a photo on the camera.”

“It sounds like they are going back through and matching up the photos with the places that were burglarized,” she said.

District attorney Williams said after the new evidence came to light, she requested the case be reopened. “They will send all of the information to me again and I will review the case from start to finish, including the new evidence once it is sent to me,” she said.

Williams said she hasn’t heard from chief Musser in about a month. “I thought Haines was investigating it, but I haven’t heard anything,” she said.

Musser wouldn’t comment on the case. “The case is an active investigation, so no additional information will be disclosed,” he said.

That lack of information is aggravating residents who want their belongings back and who want the perpetrators held accountable.

Shori Heaton, who lives near the top of Young Road, had a couple of CDs and an iPod dock stolen from her car while it was parked at her home. Heaton said she has called the police department several times for information about the case and her things, but has given up.

“They were telling me they didn’t know when it would be given back to me and they weren’t going to tell me specifics if they even had them. I had to buy it all again and replace it,” she said. “It’s completely irresponsible. I’ve called at least three times asking them about this and where they were (on the investigation) and when I could get the stuff back, and nobody had any answers.”

Part of the problem, Fowler and Heaton said, is the town already knows the identities of two suspects, though the department hasn’t officially released their names.

“Everybody knows who did it,” Fowler said, “but the people responsible don’t just come forward and do the right thing. They are taking forever to build the case. It would just be so much easier if the people came forward and did the right thing.”

Heaton said she is concerned the department is “playing favorites” because of the suspects’ status in the community.

“I’m pretty bitter about it. I’m not a bitter person, but I am pretty pissed about it,” Heaton said. “It’s just disgusting at this point. Give me a break. How do they not have enough evidence?”

Lynnview Drive resident Lois Wickward, who had a pair of $300 Nikon binoculars stolen from her vehicle, said she is frustrated with the length of the investigation and wants her husband’s binoculars back.

Wickward, though, said she also wants to make sure the case is airtight.

 “I want the charges to stick,” she said. “I don’t want them to just get slapped on the wrist like everybody else in town. Like, ‘That was a bad thing. Shame on you.’ I want them to be held accountable.”

“If they get away with this, they’ll think, ‘Oh, I got away with it. I can do more,’” Wickward said.

Wickward’s Lynnview Drive neighbor Candi Bradford said she was told she will probably never get back the $200 taken from her car.

“It seems like an awfully long time to me,” Bradford said a year after the break-ins. “You’d think a year later... They had fingerprints. You think they could at least tell us something. Then again, I’ve never been involved in anything like this before.”

 
 

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