At 15, Winston McKutchin took his first shot of heroin. He got it from his stepfather, who, he said, was a drug dealer. "By me having easy access, I would steal a little bit off him without him knowing it," he said.
Pretty soon, what began as "a little bit" a day increased to the point where he was spending $75 a day on drugs. Now, at age 27, he has a $300-a-day habit.
To support his habit, McKutchin burglarized homes in the District of Columbia and Prince George's County and sold the stolen property on the streets of Washington. "What I would make in two weeks (at a regular job), I could make in an hour on the street," he said.
Law enforcement officials say McKutchin is typical of the drug addicts in the Washington area who have taken to housebreaking to support their habits.
He was sentenced in May to a three- to nine-year term for a burglary he committed in the District in 1978. The earliest date he could be released is November 1981.
Now he spends his days and nights at the Lorton Reformatory where he fights the pains of his addiction. "I can't stand it," he said. It's rough. I always feel the pain."
Sitting in a folding chair in the large visitors' room at Lorton, McKutchin talked about the many burglaries he had committed.
"I've done a whole lot of them," he said. "I've been all over P.G."
McKutchin said he had committed more than the burglaries he has been arrested and charged with.
"It ain't no big job," he said. "If you get in, you get in."
McKutchin, also known as Winston Mack, had developed a routine.
Around 6 a.m., he would leave his Southeast Washington home and drive to Prince George's County. There he would case neighborhoods, looking for homes with stacks of newspapers outside or residents leaving for work.
Sometimes he would park his car and observe a house that struck his fancy. He would study the occupants' routine -- when they left, when they came back.
Sometimes he would go to the door and pretend to be conducting a survey. "If you looked like a clean-cut young man, nobody's going to question you."
After picking the house -- "I always go into the biggest and prettiest house I see" -- McKutchin said he would break in by jimmying or picking the lock on the door.
If he broke into a house that had a driveway or garage, he would move his car there.
He would take cash, jewelry, stereo units and television sets. After loading his car with the stolen loot, he would head for parts of the city to sell his wares.
"By 12 o'clock, I'm through with it," he said.
"You got lots of people who buy hot stuff," he said, as he fidgeted in the chair. "That's no problem. If you got a good fence, you might get one-half of what it's worth. You don't keep none of (the stolen items)."
McKutchin said he preferred to burgalrize homes in Prince George's County as opposed to the District because the houses are far apart in the county and they are more valuable items to be found.
"I usually don't mess with the District as a rule because they have a lot of police and a lot of nosey people."
His favorite burglary victims are whites. "I tried to miss (blacks) because if they got valuable jewelry it's on their arm. If they got money, it's in the bank."
McKitchin said he preferred burglaries to robberies because "I ain't trying to kill nobody or trying to get killed. I'm just trying to take care of myself."
McKutchin, the youngest of two brothers and two sisters, grew up in Southwest Washington. He attended Dunbar High School until he dropped out at age 17 and joined the Army.
He served two years before being discharged. Even then, he said, he had a drug problem. "The war was on and they were taking anybody," he said.
McKutchin left the service in 1971 and returned to the streets of Washington. "It's been in and out of jail" since then, he said.
He was arrested in the District last May when he was caught jumping off the balcony of a Southwest Washington apartment that had been burglarized. He had a key in his pocket that fitted the apartment door.
While out on bond awaiting trial for the crimes in the District, he was arrested and charged with seven more burglaries in Prince George's County. He has not yet been tried on those charges, he said.
"It was so sweet that I thought I couldn't get caught," he said. "My luck just turned sour."
When he is released, McKutchin said he does not know if he will go back to committing burglaries. "If they lock me up again, I'll be an old man when I get out."