Howard County police say they think an extremely athletic, wall-scaling man with a detailed knowledge of Columbia's many bike paths may have committed 37 burglaries in the past month.
They had a candidate in mind and several warrants for his arrest in hand. The suspect is Brian Michael Bumbrey, a long-time Columbia resident who was also the prime suspect in a string of 50 burglaries in Columbia last year, police said.
Bumbrey, 23, pleaded guilty May 2 to one count each of theft and breaking and entering. He was ordered to a drug rehabilitation clinic in Prince George's County while he awaited sentencing. But within two days he escaped.
The recent spate of Columbia burglaries began two days after Bumbrey's escape. The 37 homes broken into are in four Columbia villages linked by dozens of miles of bike trails. Police said they have warrants charging Bumbrey with violation of a court order and four burglaries.
In several instances, a burglary suspect has been seen escaping along the trails on foot, police said.
Once, said Detective Franklin Lilly, "I looked at him face to face. And before I could get the seat belt off, he took off down the bike path." One woman confronted a man matching Bumbrey's description in her house and scared him off.
She later picked out Bumbrey's picture, Lilly said.
Another time, a Columbia resident confronted a suspect and told him she knew he was wanted. And he "turned around and ran," Lilly said.
In five instances, a car was taken along with items such as video equipment, purses and jewelry, Lilly said. Four cars have been recovered in Columbia. Many purses, credit cards inside but money missing, have been found near the burgled homes, he said.
"Columbia is a big city, but it's getting smaller and smaller. Eventually, we'll get him," Lilly said.