Police identify man accused of breaking into occupied homes
Belfast — Police have identified a Belfast man in connection with six break-ins that were reported over the course of two nights in November, with some of those burglaries occurring while the homeowners slept.
Belfast Police Chief Mike McFadden said after a lengthy investigation that included DNA testing on items left behind at some of the scenes, police believe 22-year-old Jason Beal of Belfast committed the break-ins and thefts. The burglaries reportedly occurred during the overnight hours of Thursday, Nov. 8, and Friday, Nov. 9.
"He was entering houses and snooping around trying to collect any items of value," McFadden said. "No rooms were off limits as far as this person was concerned, even bedrooms occupied by owners of the homes."
McFadden said all paperwork has been submitted to the District Attorney's Office and the case will go before the Waldo County Grand Jury next month.
McFadden said Beal allegedly stole items such as jewelry from nightstands of victims who were sleeping "inches away." In other cases, McFadden said, Beal rifled through pants that hung on bedposts to steal wallets or other items of value. In one case, a woman was awakened at about 2 a.m. when an intruder entered her bedroom and shined a flashlight in her face.
The woman reportedly told the person to leave, but, McFadden said, because she did not have access to a phone in her bedroom, she barricaded the door and waited there until morning to call police.
McFadden said the investigation pointed to Beal after Belfast Detective Sgt. Bryan Cunningham, Maine State Police Detective Jason Andrews and Detective Jason Bosco of the Waldo County Sheriff's Office recovered several items that were left behind at some of the homes. At an unoccupied home on Ocean Street that was burglarized on the night of Nov. 8, McFadden said, Cunningham located a cigarette butt that was floating in a toilet bowl, and a screwdriver.
After more break-ins were reported at homes on Salmond, Condon and School streets the next night, McFadden said, detectives found a jacket that was abandoned outside the residence on School Street.
Detectives also located shoe prints at each of the homes, and McFadden said they all appeared to come from the same pair of Nike brand shoes.
In the hope of obtaining enough DNA to pinpoint a suspect, Cunningham sent the items he thought would provide the best sample to the Maine State Crime Lab in Augusta for analysis.
"We asked them to put a rush on it," said McFadden, noting the serious nature of the crimes. "... This case was brought up to priority status."
McFadden said both items were delivered to the crime lab Nov. 16 and by Dec. 21, police had a complete report on the analysis for both the cigarette butt and the screwdriver. The screwdriver, said McFadden, provided the most complete DNA profile, while results of the cigarette butt were not as complete, but matched data that came back for the screwdriver.
"There was a strong likelihood that the cigarette came from the same person who had the screwdriver," said McFadden.
After police ran the DNA results through a nationwide database of DNA profiles known as CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System, McFadden said, the system returned a match for Beal.
"And ironically enough, Jason Beal happens to live in Belfast, Maine," said McFadden.
Beal was on probation at the time of the break-ins, McFadden said, and added that Beal had been incarcerated at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset since Dec. 12. Cunningham simultaneously learned that Beal had pawned some of the jewelry he allegedly stole in the burglaries at local pawnshops.
From there, Cunningham obtained a search warrant for Beal's residence and recovered more property that had been reported stolen in the break-ins.
McFadden said Cunningham then went to Two Bridges Regional Jail to interview Beal, at which time he also obtained the shoes Beal was wearing when he went to jail — a pair of Nikes.
"Those shoes are a perfect match to the impressions we took from the scene," said McFadden.
McFadden said Cunningham has since shipped the shoes and the impressions of the prints found at the scene to the crime lab to confirm the match.
"We got our guy, that's basically what that means," said McFadden.
That news will likely be a relief to many citizens, McFadden said, particularly those who live near where the break-ins occurred.
"People were telling me they were sleeping with their guns in their nightstands," said McFadden.
And that left McFadden especially concerned about the worst-case scenarios.
"I was particularly concerned about what reaction people would have," he said. "These types of burglaries are incredibly dangerous."
McFadden grew worried that an overly vigilant homeowner may accidentally shoot one of their own children if they were to get up in the middle of the night.
"A kid gets up at night to get a drink or doesn't feel good, walks into Mom and Dad's room and all of a sudden there's a tragedy," said McFadden. "It was a stressful time for the entire community."
But, McFadden said, police were pleased to see the response from area residents once news of the break-ins became public. McFadden said when police asked homeowners in the city to keep exterior lights on to increase visibility, most complied with the request.
McFadden said it remains unknown if a second person was involved in the break-ins, but that the investigation is continuing, particularly since some items stolen from the homes have yet to be recovered.
But McFadden said crimes like these tend to take something from victims that police can never retrieve for them.
"They're taking something away from the victims that they can never get back, and that's their security," said McFadden. "...Hopefully they believe we'll go out there and do the best we can."