By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2011; 10:03 PM
The news just keeps getting worse for Cody Wilkins, the man accused of leaving a charging cellphone at the scene of a Silver Spring home he'd broken into.
Detectives said Friday that they expect to link him to at least 50 break-ins, many involving stolen jewelry, in a swath of Montgomery County from Silver Spring to Olney.
For months, officials were stymied in the case, even as they increased forensic testing, tracked footprints outside houses and analyzed patterns to try to predict where the thief would hit next. Then, they got the cellphone. Wilkins's home had lost power in last week's snowstorm, and he needed juice for his phone.
"Sometimes it's great investigations; sometimes it's sheer luck, sheer stupidity by the suspects. We'll take it anyway we can get it," said Detective Kye Pak, who worked the Olney area burglaries.
Police began picking up a pattern of break-ins in early November. During the daytime weekdays, a thief would break through a window or door, generally in the back of a house. The thief grabbed jewelry, cash or small electronic items and left. At one point, detectives were responding to two such jobs a day.
"He had a field day in my house," said Eileen Cunius, 44, of Olney, who lost an estimated $8,000 to $9,000 in jewelry Jan. 11.
She arrived home about 3 p.m. and at first didn't know anything had happened because she did work on her first floor. Then she saw a light on upstairs. Odd she thought, going into her bedroom. Then she saw her jewelry box opened. She went over to look.
The diamond ring her mother gave her five years ago? Gone.
Two more rings her mother gave her - one on her 16th birthday, the other on her 13th birthday - that she planned to give to her young daughters? Also gone.
Tears started coming to her eyes.
On Jan. 28, Wilkins, 25, broke into a Silver Spring home, police said. When detectives discovered he had left behind a cellphone plugged into the wall, they called a frequently used number on it. Wilkins's girlfriend answered, according to police, and said she was at her mother's house in Laurel because she and Wilkins didn't have power at their home.
When questioned, Wilkins told detectives he'd lost his job, admitted to three break-ins but tried to minimize what he'd done, according to court records and detectives.
Detectives think Wilkins rarely drove - taking the Metro and walking to houses. He often hit two houses in a neighborhood and quickly left the area, Pak said. Wilkins didn't have a car charger for his phone, Pak said.
In searching his home, detectives found a bong and jewelry taken from other burglaries, according to court records. Detectives have charged Wilkins with 10 break-ins. They expect to charge him with more and to close out other cases "administratively," meaning they will link the burglary to Wilkins but not charge him, said Sgt. Rob Grims.
Court records do not indicate whether Wilkins has a lawyer. He remained jailed on $1 million bond Friday.
Cunius said the only redeeming aspect of the ordeal, for her, was learning how Wilkins was arrested. "I just snickered to myself."