Social media and a tip from an alert cell-phone store employee led to police this week charging five people in connection with the Oct. 21 burglary of Tech Connect, including the man suspected to have broken into the Pioneer Avenue electronics store.
Homer Police charged Joshua Johnston, 24, on charges of second-degree burglary, second-degree theft and tampering with physical evidence. Police alleged Johnston entered Tech Connect and took about $4,500 in electronic items, including Apple iPads, Apple iPods, an Apple Nano and a Dr. Dre wireless headset. Several digital cameras also were stolen from the store, but recovered nearby.
Coincidentally, police also arrested Johnston on Oct. 23 for second-degree burglary in an unrelated case: the break-in of the Salvation Army on Sept. 11.
Police said Johnston broke into the Salvation Army store on Sept. 11 and stole a safe with about $2,000 in cash. Investigating the Tech Connect burglary led police to finding Johnston at the Anchor Point home of Patrick Delumeau, one of the defendants charged in the Tech Connect burglary.
Also charged in the Tech Connect theft are:
• Delumeau, 20, second-degree theft and tampering with physical evidence;
• Chrystal Tangman, 36, tampering with physical evidence;
• Brandon Doty, 22, tampering with physical evidence, third-degree theft, third-degree theft by receiving, and
• Derek Dour, 22, second-degree theft and tampering with physical evidence.
The Tech Connect burglary remains under investigation and police anticipate more arrests and charges could be made, said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl.
“I appreciate the persistence of the police,” said Gayle Forrest, who owns Tech Connect with her husband, Craig Forrest.
Forrest said that shortly after the burglary was discovered, with Forrest’s approval, Tech Connect employee Diana Hahnlein made a Facebook posting about the burglary, and it spread widely. Forrest attributed that to helping solve the crime.
“This whole advent of social media, sometimes it’s really hard to hide a crime, especially if you’re trying to get rid of the stuff in the town you’re doing it,” Forrest said.
Police acknowledged receiving tips that helped break the case.
“The Homer Police Department would like to thank the many citizens that came forward and provided valuable information that helped to solve these crimes,” Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said in a press release.
According to criminal complaints for the defendants, Sgt. Lary Kuhns wrote that on Oct. 22, the day after the Tech Connect burglary, a clerk at the AT&T store called police saying Tangman and Doty had come into the store asking how to configure an Apple iPad table computer, still in its packaging.
The clerk thought this unusual because someone selling an iPad would advise a customer how to configure an iPad. Tech Connect and AT&T are the only stores in Homer that sell iPads. The clerk had read on Facebook that iPads and other Apple products had been stolen from Tech Connect, Kuhns wrote.
Kuhns and Officer Steve Smith contacted Tangman at her home. She told him Doty had given her the iPad as a gift, Kuhns wrote. Tangman also said her daughter had heard at school that some iPads had been stolen from Tech Connect. Tangman told Kuhns she confronted Doty and gave him back the iPad.
Kuhns and Smith then contacted Doty, who said he bought the iPad from Dour for $150, less than the retail price of about $560. Doty said he knew the iPad was stolen and returned it to Dour and got his money back, Kuhns said. Doty said he knew Dour had more than one iPad.
At about the same time as the Tech Connect burglary, a car had been entered illegally near Tech Connect. Police found in the car a cell phone that did not belong to the owner. Kuhns turned on the cell phone and discovered it belonged to Johnston, he wrote in a complaint.
On Oct. 23, police contacted Johnston at Delumeau’s Anchor Point home and arrested him there on the Salvation Army burglary.
Delumeau is on probation for a second-degree theft. Police talked to his probation officer, who encouraged Delumeau to cooperate with police. In an interview with Kuhns and Smith, Delumeau said he had received a stolen iPad and iPod and hid the items in the ceiling of his home, Kuhns wrote. Police searched his home and found the iPad and iPod, worth about $650 total. Delumeau told police Johnston had broken into Tech Connect and stole electronics, Kuhns wrote in a complaint.
At Delumeau’s home, police also found clothing and other items they said belonged to Johnston, including a set of Dr. Dre headphones similar to those stolen from Tech Connect. Shoes said to belong to Johnston had a tread pattern and size similar to an impression taken at Tech Connect, Kuhns wrote in a complaint.
Police went to Dour’s East End Road, home but did not find Dour there, Kuhns wrote. Kuhns did see clear plastic wrapping with stickers in Dour’s driveway that was later identified as coming from wrapping from a Dr. Dre headset. Smith found an iPod Nano instruction booklet as well.
On Oct. 25, Kuhns interviewed Dour. He said he received an iPad from Johnston and sold it to Doty for about $100, Kuhns said. Dour also told police Johnston had committed the Tech Connect burglary, Kuhns wrote in a complaint. Dour said Johnston told him the stolen items were in a cabin off Svedlund Drive, but police did not find the stolen items in the area.
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said police had recovered about a fifth of the stolen property.
Also related to the case, police charged Ashley Dour, 26, with fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, heroin, and first-degree promoting contraband. Police said Dour tried to smuggle heroin inside the sweat band of a pair of shorts she brought to Delumeau at the Homer Jail.