They got away with it for awhile — three young men burglarizing Chantilly homes, this spring, while the owners were gone. They broke windows and doors, ransacked rooms and stole expensive items.
But in the end, all three were caught. And now, one by one, they're being punished for their deeds. The latest was Cesar Perez, 20, of Franklin Farm. With his girlfriend and their 3-month-old son looking on, he was sentenced Friday to nearly three years in prison.
"I would like to apologize to the court," he said, while his girlfriend cried quietly in the front row. "I don't know what I was thinking."
PEREZ, LIKE HIS partners in crime, lived in or near the neighborhoods they victimized; he resided at 3240 Tayloe Court. The rash of burglaries happened between March 5 and April 16 in the Franklin Glen, Chantilly Farms, Ox Hill and Legato Acres communities.
Homeowners would leave for work or vacation and come home to find that their houses had been broken into, their premises left in disarray and many of their belongings stolen. But on April 16, when a neighbor heard glass breaking at the house next door and quickly called police, officers responded immediately and apprehended Perez and two teen-agers.
One of the burglaries happened between April 12-16 at a home in the 13600 block of Brockmeyer Court in Chantilly's Ox Hill community. The owners had locked their house, April 12, and left for vacation. But on April 16, around 10:30 a.m., a neighbor discovered the rear door to the back deck had been smashed out.
Someone had rummaged through drawers and thrown them on the floor, and the refrigerator door was ajar. Police were called. Returning home, the owners reported missing items including pearl, diamond, amethyst and gold jewelry, 50 state coins, rolls of coins two gold money clips.
However, some 15 minutes before that burglary was discovered, a man in Legato Acres off Piney Branch Road heard glass breaking. He told police he'd seen two males breaking into his neighbor's house — and an officer saw them leaving it. They fled, but were soon captured.
One of them was Perez, and police found a money clip, loose coins and a Motorola pager on his person. On July 1 in Circuit Court, he pleaded guilty to two counts of breaking and entering. He returned last Friday, Sept. 12, for sentencing before Judge M. Langhorne Keith.
ASSISTANT COMMONWEALTH'S Attorney Greg Holt said Perez owed $15,000 in restitution and asked for a sentence on the upper end of the guidelines, ranging from two years, 10 months to five years, seven months. But defense attorney Ronald Lynch asked for less, saying that, in April, Judge Kathleen MacKay had sentenced Perez to the eight months in prison she'd suspended from an earlier, 12-month sentence she'd given him from a prior burglary conviction.
Employed as a housepainter, Perez came to the U.S., 15 years ago, from El Salvador, and Lynch said his criminal behavior was a puzzle. "His family went to all the trouble to get him up here, and then [he does this]," said Lynch. "He's not a hostile, young man, and I don't think he can explain to you why he did it."
He said Perez needs to "disassociate from his negative peers." He also noted that he needs intensive, substance-abuse treatment for his alcohol use.
This young man is worthy of a second chance — a second bite of the apple to do something with his life," said Lynch. "He's a family man now. His fiancée and young son are here — he's got motivation."
Nonetheless, Judge Keith could not overlook the severity of Perez' crimes. He sentenced him to two years, 10 months total, plus 18 months probation upon his release. He also ordered Perez to receive substance-abuse treatment and maintain full-time employment.
This sentence plus the earlier eight months equaled 3 1/2 years in prison but, since Perez has been in jail six months, that leaves him about three years to serve. Afterward, Lynch said, "Under the circumstances [so soon after the prior conviction], I thought it was fair. He was fortunate."