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Man who left cellphone in Silver Spring house charged in 10 burglaries
Detectives closed in on Wilkins about the time his power came back on, and he was trying to flush jewelry down his toilet, police said.
Bob Hainey, a spokesman for Pepco, declined to say whether Wilkins's home had power Friday, citing a policy of not commenting on specific addresses. But Wilkins's address - in the 12800 block of Littleton Street in Silver Spring - is within Pepco's service area, according to the utility's online maps. Police and Wilkins's neighbors confirmed that they lost power during the Jan. 26 storm and that it wasn't back on at the time of the Silver Spring burglary.
"Very cold, very dark, very depressing," said James Lenahan, who lives on the block.
By Friday, as anyone who has suffered through power outages with dead cellphones and other devices can attest, Wilkins must have been frustrated.
About 3 p.m., police say, he went through the rear window of a home near Bel Pre and Layhill roads. The son of the homeowner walked in and heard noise upstairs, according to police records.
In the master bedroom, he saw the window open and the screen on the ground, according to police accounts. The man went downstairs "and saw a male with a red stocking cap run past the kitchen window towards a neighbor's house," according to an arrest affidavit signed by Montgomery Detective Cory Brodzinski.
The resident chased him, following him by sight and then by footprints in the snow, but couldn't catch him, police said. Back inside the house, the son found a Cricket Sanyo cellphone plugged into the wall, according to arrest records. He called police.
Police searched through the phone and called a number. The person who answered identified herself as Wilkins's girlfriend. The ruse worked, and detectives learned where Wilkins lived, according to arrest records.
By Friday night, officers were banging on his door.
Lenahan had just returned from dinner with his wife and son at a T.G.I. Friday's and happily saw the lights come on about 6:30 p.m After hearing noises, Lenahan went outside and saw that police had converged on Wilkins's house.
"We saw them bringing him out in handcuffs," said Lenahan, a salesman at a heating and air-conditioning business.
Lenahan said he was able to keep his own cellphone juiced with a car charger. He laughed when told what the suspect had allegedly left behind. "If in fact he is guilty of these burglaries, he had it coming," Lenahan said.
No family or friends of Wilkins's could be found Wednesday. Online court records did not indicate whether he had a lawyer.
Detectives were able to link Wilkins to 10 break-ins based on witness accounts, jewelry found at his home and tread marks left by his boots, according to arrest records.
In one burglary, in Olney, Wilkins is accused of taking 30 pieces of jewelry valued at $26,695, $3,000 worth of U.S. Savings bonds and $2,986 in cash.
None of it could buy him power in the storm.
Staff researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.