Macon police link two to string of burglaries

Police lifted fingerprints from a burglarized house on Knollwood Drive that led to the arrest of two men who have been linked to 12 Macon burglaries committed between Jan. 19 and April 4.

Steven Anthony Austin, 19, of Claburn Road, and Andre Jamterties Brown, 33, of Ponce de Leon Ave., are being held at the Bibb County jail in connection with the burglaries, according to jail records.

Macon police investigator Neal Moore said the fingerprint, taken from the March 24 Knollwood Drive burglary, was compared with a database of other fingerprints. The print matched fingerprints on file for Austin.

It just so happened that police had spotted Austin and Brown walking at the corner of Knollwood Drive and Claburn Road within an hour of the burglary, he said.

In addition to the burglary charges, Brown also is charged with identity theft in connection with a Feb. 25 burglary on Buford Place, said investigator Robert Martin.

Brown is accused of taking a Social Security card and attempting to obtain a credit card with it, he said.

When police questioned Austin about two weeks after the fingerprint match, Austin admitted he’d broken into homes on Knollwood Drive, Sugarloaf Drive, Lee Road, Pierce Avenue and Huntington Place, Moore said.

In subsequent interviews, authorities say, Austin implicated Brown in some of the burglaries and later rode along with detectives for about eight hours, identifying the houses he broke into and where he got rid of the stolen items.

“He took us down the street and showed us every one,” Moore said.

Moore said Austin explained that he rode by each house about 6 or 7 at night to check and see who had a flat screen TV.

Then the next day, Austin returned and broke into the houses, taking TVs, computers, jewelry, personal safes and other valuables. At about half the houses, Austin told police he entered through doggy doors. For the others, he entered through a window, Moore said.

About half the houses had alarm systems. The others didn’t.

But he never spent more than about five minutes inside each house, Moore said.

While riding around with police, Austin also took investigators to Riverview Road where he threw a safe stolen from Ellenwood Circle on Feb. 11.

“There was the safe sitting in the woodline with the door open,” Moore said.

Savings bonds worth $5,600 were still inside along with other important papers.

“He had no idea what they were,” Moore said of the savings bonds.

Austin also led investigators to another safe he’d dumped on Ayers Road.

Moore said most of the TVs were sold on the street for about $300. About 10 laptop computers were sold to computer stores who then sold them on eBay.

“We’re trying our best to track the items,” he said, adding investigators are checking shipping records.

If the items can be located, they will be returned to their owners. When the case goes to court, the people who bought the computers will be able to claim restitution, Moore said.

He said some computer stores who buy used merchandise require sellers to provide an ID. Others don’t.

A platinum diamond ring was recovered from a pawnshop, Moore said, adding pawnshops are required to submit information daily about what items they acquire and who brought the items to the store.

Using information gathered from other investigations, he said it’s likely some of the jewelry was sold to a junk gold company.

In many cases, burglars will tell police where they dumped their loot in hopes that if items are recovered they won’t have to pay as much restitution, he said.

Michael Leverett, of Windsor Road, said public works employees found the safe from his house off Northside Drive.

Although the cash was gone, important papers were still inside, he said.

Computer equipment, a Nintendo Wii and other items have not been recovered.

Leverett said his family was visiting his in-laws’ home for several hours Feb. 16 when the burglary took place.

The family had a practice of leaving the doggy door open so their English springer spaniel could go outside.

Now, the Leveretts leave the doggy door closed and secure anytime they’re not at home.

Leverett said the family has also installed an alarm system and he’s bought a gun.

“I was somebody all my life who never thought I’d carry a gun,” he said, adding he never thought he’d need an alarm system either.

But other victims, such as Noelle Rooke, haven’t recovered anything taken in the burglary spree.

Rooke said she returned home to her Sugarloaf Drive home Feb. 12 and found drawers in her bedroom had been ransacked. A TV, heirloom jewelry and other valuables were gone.

Rooke said she and her husband have visited pawnshops searching for their belongings, but haven’t had any luck.

“You just feel so violated,” she said.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398,