In mid-November, a Chantilly couple about to be evicted from their own trailer broke into their neighbor's mobile home and stole everything from diamond bracelets to frozen, breaded shrimp.
Suspecting them of the crime, the victim told police to check them out. And after questioning them and even painstakingly picking through their garbage, on Nov. 18 Fairfax County police arrested them both.
THEY CHARGED Marcia Kim Fitzgerald, 46, and Kenneth Dean Miller, 38, of the 14500 block of Iberia Circle, with burglary and grand larceny. On April 10 in Circuit Court, Miller pleaded guilty to grand larceny and will be sentenced May 26.
Tuesday morning in the same court, Fitzgerald pleaded guilty to both breaking and entering and grand larceny. And head Circuit Court Judge Michael McWeeny made sure she knew what she risked by doing so.
"Do you understand that the maximum punishment you could receive would be 40 years in the penitentiary, were you to be sentenced consecutively for these offenses?" he asked her. "Yes," she answered.
The incident occurred Nov. 15 in the Dulles Meadows community, off Route 50. "Items including jewelry and a handgun were stolen — and most of the contents of [the victim's] refrigerator were taken," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mark Sullivan.
Indeed, in a Nov. 17 affidavit for a warrant to search Miller and Fitzgerald's double-wide trailer, police Det. Mitchell Motafches noted that the thieves smashed a window of the trailer to gain entry while the owner was at work.
Then, he wrote, they pilfered practically everything they could carry away. Stolen items included a large array of silver, gold, diamond and opal jewelry, as well as computer hardware and software, a digital camera, DVD player, an antique .22-caliber handgun and a box of bullets.
They apparently also worked up quite an appetite from their endeavor because, in addition to the pricier items, Miller and Fitzgerald swiped foodstuffs including: packages of pork chops, chicken, sirloin steaks, ham, breaded shrimp, hot dogs and deli meats. Not forgetting the side dishes, they also took frozen vegetables and potato chips, candy bars and soda.
"On Nov. 17, police learned that the defendants had just taken out the trash and, [executing their search warrant], they looked through it and found a jewelry receipt belonging to the victim," said Sullivan. "And numerous food items were found matching the brand, size and type of food [stolen from the victim."
IN ADDITION, he said, "A leather cigarette case with [the victim's] initials was found. And the detective checked pawn shops and discovered that Fitzgerald had pawned several jewelry items. The detective collected them and [the victim] identified them as hers." As for the rest of the stolen property, said Sullivan, the detective found it in an adjacent trailer.
Before accepting Fitzgerald's plea Tuesday, Judge McWeeny ascertained that she only had a 10th-grade education. He then asked her if she'd discussed the charges against her with her lawyer, Michael Davis, and she said she had.
"Did you decide to plead guilty of your own, free will?" asked the judge. "Yes," she replied. "Do you understand that, by doing so, you lose your right to a trial by a jury and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses?" he asked. Again, Fitzgerald answered yes.
McWeeny then told her there's no sentencing agreement in her case, but the commonwealth will drop "related charges" against her. "I do find your pleas freely, intelligently and voluntarily made," he said. McWeeny then found Fitzgerald guilty and scheduled her sentencing for June 2.
He allowed her to remain free on bond until then. But, he added, "As a special condition of your bond, you must fully cooperate with the probation officer in the preparation of your pre-sentencing report."