When Steve Rath awoke the morning after Christmas, the gifts were cleaned out from under the tree. Purses had been rifled through. Cars parked outside had been rummaged.
Gone were his new camera and cologne. So were his DVDs, CDs and tools. So was a case of trinkets he had given his 5-year-old daughter for Christmas.
Rath had been the victim of a Christmastime burglary at the hands of a Grinch.
"I think the right word is violated," Rath said Wednesday. "That's the only way I can explain it. I was upset."
Rath began thinking of who may have taken all his gifts.
He had friends over on Christmas Day and, eventually, they started a game of poker. A former roommate of Rath's, Robert Benson, came over and joined the game. Rath said Benson lost $60 and left in a bad mood.
Rath and his girlfriend went to bed about 4:30 a.m. Less than two hours later, a friend who stayed the night shook him awake, saying the house had been ransacked.
The burglar got in through an unlocked back door. The items that were stolen, including more than 60 CDs, are worth thousands of dollars.
"He stole a ham out of the freezer," Rath, 37, said. "We were going to have ham the day after Christmas, and we were like, "Where's the ham?"'
The more Rath thought about it, the more he suspected Benson was the culprit. He recalled that Benson had an arrest history.
"We started putting all the pieces together," Rath said. "We thought he had to do it."
Rath confronted Benson at a bar, but Benson denied the burglary. Rath then went to Benson's uncle's house, where he had been staying.
"I said, "I believe your (nephew) stole stuff of mine. Can I please check your house?"' Rath said. "As soon as I walked in, we started finding stuff."
Rath summoned Largo police to the home. Officer Thomas Recla arrived at the house, then went to the bar and confronted Benson. When Recla brought Benson back to his uncle's house, he denied stealing the stuff.
"He would not admit to it," Recla said. "He said he could not figure out how all that stuff got into his room. I don't know if he was playing dumb or what, but he wouldn't admit to anything."
Recla arrested Benson, 24, on a grand theft charge. Benson, whose criminal history includes previous jail terms on charges of burglary, criminal mischief and violating his probation on other offenses, was being held at the Pinellas County Jail Wednesday evening in lieu of $5,000 bail.
Rath said he got some of his things back, but he believes Benson pawned the rest.
He "came back to the house and stole the stuff," Rath said. "A man like that doesn't deserve to be friends with anybody."