Monday, February 27, 2012

High Plains Model Home Burglar

Sad little episode in the annals of crime:

California's Second District appellate court has upheld the conviction of Allen Tuggle, Jr. for burgling a refrigerator and stereo from a desolate model home in Lancaster, California. That's in the high dusty reaches of Los Angeles County, getting into the Joshua trees. Dust was the major factor in dating Mr. Tuggle's alleged fingerprints on a vase that wasn't stolen but remained behind after the burglary:
"...Jamie General, an interior designer with JAG Interiors... recalled it was “superhot, windy, [and] dusty” when the furnishings were delivered. “[E]verything got dirty because we had to leave all the windows and doors [open] because they didn't have any air [conditioning] yet. . . . [W]e were installing for five days in about 115 degree weather..."
Witnesses testified "everything" had to be dusted to prepare the property for showing. Therefore, prosecutors argued, the fingerprints must have appeared on the vase after the dusting, hence after the vase found its way to the model home.
"...APH superintendent Tommy Kozenko... indicated the model homes were kept in “spotless” condition while they were open to the public. When Kozenko entered to investigate the burglary, the interior of the home was dusty. Kozenko found a glass candleholder vase and other items on the floor next to the fireplace and it appeared the vase had been moved. At the time of the burglary, the air conditioning system remained in operation to protect the home from damage due to dust. The project was surrounded by undeveloped land. Dust and high wind were “big problem[s]” in the area..."
By now you'll be picturing the place as the "Sudden Valley" model home in Arrested Development. Actually it's not far off -- try looking up "1828 Kaylyn Street, Lancaster, CA" on Google Maps. Just be sure and put down the Google Street View cursor on the Kaylyn Street side of the soundwall. You'll see where all that dust comes from.

On the other hand, the stolen items can't have been Homefills à la Bluth if they had value enough to support a burglary charge.

Regrettably so for Mr. Tuggle, whose life was already less than ideal:
"...Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Mahoney arrested Tuggle on February 24, 2009. Tuggle told Mahoney he had not been in, around or near any model homes in the previous two years and he had been working with Labor Ready for two years. When Mahoney asked if Tuggle's fingerprints would be inside any model home in Lancaster, Tuggle said he was in no position to look at or buy a home and his fingerprints should not be in any model home in Lancaster..."
Much of the Second District opinion is taken up in argument over the level of expertise behind testimony by a sheriff's forensic identification deputy about the likely age of the prints. Basically, a jury believed the deputy and so did the appellate judges.

It looks like this offense would have been second-degree burglary, not first-degree, because model homes aren't inhabited (except in wacky sitcoms). Hence it was possibly just a misdemeanor -- hard to tell from the cryptic published opinion. Anyway the guy seems to have been granted probation and for at least the moment doesn't have to pay $2,543.13 in attorney's fees. So, eh, could be worse for him. Not however the outcome he'd like, I'm sure.

Am also sure he is not pleased that the word Tuggle has seven progressively stranger meanings in the Urban Dictionary.

I'm thinking of an eighth: "Tuggled: not exactly railroaded, but a victim of a stretched point."

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