Burglary ring suspects may face more charges | RecordCourier.com

Burglary ring suspects may face more charges

by Sheila Gardner
Jeffrey Lee Stephens

Attorneys were appointed Monday for three suspects in a series of daytime burglaries in Douglas County and South Lake Tahoe.

The suspects, all of South Lake Tahoe, are in custody in Douglas County Jail.

They are:

■ Jeffrey Lee Stephens, 44, charged with two counts of burglary, $70,155 bail;

■ Jean Rene Winters, 45, burglary, $95,655 bail;

■ Joseph Alan Winters, 48, two counts of burglary, $56,054 bail.

The trio appeared Monday before East Fork Judge Tom Perkins who set their next hearings for Wednesday.

The three indicated they were unemployed, and could not afford to hire attorneys.

Perkins appointed Kris Brown to represent Stephens, Jamie Henry for Joseph Winters and Derrick Lopez to represent Jean Winters.

The suspects were caught in the act Friday morning at a home in Valley Crest Estates behind Home Depot in northern Douglas County.

Earlier that day they were suspected of breaking into a home in the Foothill area. A print at the scene matched the boot of one of the suspects, according to reports.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Capt. John Milby said Monday the three were in possession of stolen property when they were arrested.

He declined to disclose further details as the case is being investigated by DCSO, El Dorado County and South Lake Tahoe law enforcement agencies.

The defendants are suspected of a number of similar daytime break-ins.

“It does seem rather bold,” Milby said, “but it’s a trend we’re seeing.”

What happens, Milby said, is a suspect knocks on the door of a home that looks unoccupied.

“If somebody answers the door, they have a ruse — they’re lost, or looking for an address. They target homes that appear to be vacant When they find a home that’s empty, they force their way in,” he said.

Milby said burglars look for indications that a home is vacant, such as an empty driveway, or piled up newspapers.

“This is not the first time we’ve seen this tactic or technique,” Milby said.

He cited incidents in the Ironwood area, on Wildrose Drive last summer and a burglary ring that targeted Douglas County and Carson City.

Milby said he believed the suspects are looking at additional charges as El Dorado County and South Lake Tahoe authorities put their cases together.

Also at the scene was a white 2000 Ford Explorer, described in an earlier burglary attempt in Minden.

On Oct. 12, a woman said she was in her home when two men using a crowbar tried to break into her residence on Esmeralda Avenue through the front door.

The victim said she was watching television in the living room about 2 p.m., and heard a loud knocking at her front door.

By the time she reached the door, the woman said she heard what sounded like someone using a shoulder to break down the door, and a crunching noise that sounded like a crowbar. The thieves fled when they realized she was home after she yelled at them to leave.

The woman called 911 and was able to copy the license number that was traced to a South Lake Tahoe man who reported his plate was stolen that day.

Anyone who has seen the suspects or their vehicle in their neighborhood, or been contacted by them, is asked to call Douglas investigators Ted Duzan or John Preston at (775) 782-9905.