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Fast work nets teen burglary suspects

Police charge two youths after the theft of $70,000 in bank checks and jewelry from an elderly woman's home.

By LEANORA MINAI

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- A 79-year-old woman who lost $70,000 in jewelry and bank checks got most of her belongings back, but she is afraid to sleep in her own bed after Tuesday's burglary.

"You feel that way," said St. Petersburg burglary Detective John Evans. "It's, "Somebody else has been here,' and it's not right, but eventually it passes."

Late Wednesday, Evans arrested and charged two teenagers with breaking into the woman's house in the 200 block of 98th Avenue NE. They also are suspects in a string of other burglaries, police said.

Charged with armed and residential burglary are John Mulqueen, 17, and Oltion Bashiri, 18. Both live in St. Petersburg and have criminal histories.

Mulqueen was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center, and Bashiri was booked in the Pinellas County Jail. Police also are searching for a third suspect.

The woman's name is not being published because of the nature of the crime. She was not home between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday when the teens are accused of jumping a wood fence and breaking a kitchen window.

They went to a closet safe and emptied into a pillow case two handguns, a $10,000 diamond ring and $60,000 in checks from a negotiable certificate, police said.

The guns have not been recovered.

Police arrested the teens after smart sleuthing and a lucky turn of events on Wednesday.

Officers received a call of suspicious circumstances at 5434 17th St. N, which turned out to be a burglary in progress. When a police car passed the address, the suspects ran from the house.

Officers got the license tag number of the suspects' car, and Evans, the detective familiar with the teens, heard the radio report and went to an address where he knew he could find the teens.

After questioning, the teens were arrested.

Evans said the suspects operated by walking up to a house, ringing or knocking and asking if someone was home.

"If no one answers, they'll go around the back and break in," he said. "A lot of burglars do that. This isn't anything new."

Evans urged residents to call police if they see someone in a neighborhood they do not recognize.

"That's what we do," Evans said. "That's why we're in the business."

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