Ahern burglar suspect in California case | RecordCourier.com

Ahern burglar suspect in California case

by Sheila Gardner
sgardner@recordcourier.com

Sentencing was continued Monday for a 29-year-old California man who admitted burglarizing Ahern Rentals after testimony linked him to a similar crime in Santa Maria, Calif.

Defense lawyer Derrick Lopez requested the continuance on behalf of his client, Jose Corona, after District Attorney Mark Jackson said Corona’s blood had been found at the scene of an agricultural supply store burglary in Santa Maria, Calif.

Jackson said Corona had not been charged in the California offense. He also said Corona was known to members of a California task force investigating a string of commercial burglaries over the past two years.

“The information from Mr. Jackson that my client left blood at the second crime scene is a shock to me,” Lopez said. “The Santa Maria crime is all new to me To be surprised with that today is an unfair surprise to the defendant. As for the ‘string of burglaries,’ I don’t know if that means two. I don’t know how many that means. I think we are entitled to know about that.”

Jackson said he didn’t think the task force would release information about uncharged burglaries. He said he thought information on the Santa Maria burglary had been provided to Lopez.

District Judge Michael Gibbons, in delaying the sentencing until Feb. 6, said Corona was entitled to the information. He said if nothing could be provided on the Santa Maria case, it couldn’t be brought up at the sentencing unless it was presented as an aggravating factor.

Gibbons granted the delay in order for Lopez to obtain the new information.

Corona said in December that he was paid $1,200 for his part in the Feb. 2, 2011, break-in at Ahern Rentals that netted nearly $18,000 in tools and generators.

Corona was found through a DNA match to blood on a piece of broken glass at the scene.

On Monday, Jackson presented a security tape showing two men gaining entry by breaking a glass door at Ahern Rentals. A white minivan pulled into the parking lot at 1:30 a.m. with the van door already open. One of the suspects broke out the front door window with a rod.

The pair, wearing dark hooded sweatshirts, is shown inside the store removing generators and chain saws worth $18,400, and driving away in less than three minutes. The van turned south on Highway 395.

Shards of glass were collected from the front of the store that were covered with dried blood. A search of the national DNA database showed a match between the evidence swab and Corona who was in custody in Los Angeles on an unrelated offense.

He was returned to Douglas County Jail in October, where he is being held on $100,000 bail.

The second suspect in the burglary, whom Corona identified as “Henry,” has not been found. None of the items has been recovered.

“This is what every merchant in every community fears the most – professional burglars,” Jackson said. “They do work in advance, they find the most expensive goods and hit it. They don’t care about burglar alarms.”

Jackson asked that Corona be sentenced to 2-8 years in Nevada State Prison.

“You know these are tough economic times. Ahern Rentals is not immune. They have insurance for $25,000. Anything below that, they’re self-insured,” Jackson said. “He (Corona) is the source. He has confessed.”

Jackson said Corona had two prior felony arrests that were reduced to misdemeanors.

“This looks like a professional hit. Anywhere Mr. Corona is likely to be, the society needs to be protected,” Jackson said.

He said California authorities were awaiting the outcome of Corona’s Douglas County case before deciding what to do.

He faces up to 10 years in prison, and agreed to pay $17,947.41 restitution.

“Frankly, I don’t think a penny will ever be paid,” Jackson said.