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On March 5 Sergeant Mark Brown listens to Kevin Lundin tell of security concerns in Piñon Pines. [Hedlund photo for The Mountain Enterprise]
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On March 20 items stolen from a home in Pine Mountain on Tirol Drive were found at the residence where Michael Cook, 34 was staying in Piñon Pines. [KCSO photo]
By Patric Hedlund
Stolen property was found at the Piñon Pines home of “a person of interest” on Tuesday, March 20, after months of burglaries have plagued the Pine Mountain, Cuddy Valley and Frazier Park areas with no arrests.
Sergeant Mark Brown and Kern County deputies from the Frazier Park substation secured permission to search a residence being used by Michael Cook, 34 while Cook was still in custody at the Lerdo Maximum- Medium Facility in Bakersfield for arrest on unrelated charges on March 12.
Break-ins to homes, the Mil Potrero Water Company and the Pine Mountain Post Office, outbuildings, vehicles and stores throughout the Mountain Communities have been occurring for over a year.
On March 5, at a community meeting about a rash of burglaries in Cuddy Valley, Kern County Sheriff’s Sergeant Mark Brown said “a person of interest” who had lived in Pine Mountain recently moved to the Cuddy Valley area, just prior to the outbreak of Cuddy Valley burglaries.
On March 12, Brown reports that “a deputy stopped a vehicle being driven by an unlicensed driver, Michael Cook, on the 1200 block of Snowbird Drive in Piñon Pines” (Piñon Pines is in Cuddy Valley). Cook was arrested for possession of a controlled substance, possession of concentrated cannabis, possession of over one ounce of marijuana, being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of narcotic paraphernalia and driving without a valid license.
Catherine Langford, a passenger in the car, was arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance and resisting arrest at that same stop.
On March 13, the Kern County District Attorney’s Office had a petty theft warrant served on Cook in jail, for an incident that occurred on August 9, 2011 when a man stole $27 out of a donation jar at Mike’s Pizza in Lake of the Woods. Restaurant owner Mike Geike said he saw the man. Brown said: “We connected Cook to this crime through [surveillance] video, a vehicle plate that returned to his friend and a ‘suspect interview’” on March 12.
Then, on March 20, at about 1 p.m., “We did a consensual search on the property where Cook was staying prior to his March 12 arrest,” Brown said in an interview that afternoon, “the guy who owns the house lives there, and let us in. I saw the American Indian decorations and that appeared suspicious. We called the victim of one of the burglaries [from the 2400 block of Tirol Drive in Pine Mountain]. She identified the stuff as her property, so we upgraded the criminal complaint against Cook to residential burglary and possession of stolen property….I’m very happy with my deputies right now.”
The property was returned to the owner and the complaint was sent to the DA’s office. Later that night, at about 10:45 p.m., deputies executed a search warrant at the home and searched a locked room they were legally unable to search earlier without a warrant. They located dozens of tubes of paint reported stolen from the home on the 2400 block of Tirol Drive, Brown said.
It’s Not Over Yet
But many of the crimes seen in the past year appear to have been the work of several people, some working together. While Cook was in custody last week, another Pine Mountain homeowner reported to The Mountain Enterprise that there was an attempted burglary at his home, possibly on Thursday, March 15.
Residents are advised to stay vigilant, to lock windows and doors in homes, vehicles and outbuildings, and to continue reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement. Brown said at least two different “M.O.s” appear to mark burglaries in this area—one more organized and professional, going after specific tools and marketable metal from outbuildings (as well as from homes with copper pipe); the other is more casual and opportunistic, possibly by juveniles or young adults, in which burglars steal food as well as electronic equipment and valuables such as jewelry.
Meanwhile, DNA samples collected in two commercial robberies (at Robin Hood’s Jewelry and the Pine Mountain Post Office) are being processed by the Kern County crime lab.
This is part of the March 23, 2012 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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