A man charged in a burglary in Northwest and suspected in more than 20 others was released from custody last week when the detective investigating the case did not show up for the suspect's preliminary hearing, according to prosecutors and court records.
Police officials identified the detective as Darrell Roberts of the 4th District. Roberts did not respond to two messages asking him to comment on the situation, and his supervisor referred all calls to a police spokesman. His commander is conducting an internal investigation, police officials said.
Police and prosecutors said that the criminal investigation of the burglary spree is continuing and that they will take the case before a grand jury for a possible indictment.
The suspect, identified as Dorsey J. Brundage, 48, of the 7400 block of New Hampshire Avenue in Hyattsville, could not be reached. He was released from custody May 18 by Magistrate Judge Michael J. McCarthy after Roberts did not appear for the preliminary hearing, officials said.
The release drew sharp criticism from Council member Adrian Fenty (D-Ward 4), who represents the area.
"The fact that that detective did not show up, that is extreme negligence," Fenty said Friday. "The community is just beside itself with anger. The detective didn't do something as simple as appear in court and the guy was let loose because of it. . . . He just didn't show up. He just dropped the ball.
"He needs to be held accountable and his supervisor needs to be held accountable," Fenty added.
The incident also annoyed the district's commander, Hilton Burton, who said he has been forced to put out fliers to officers and civic groups asking them to keep an eye out for the suspect, who had been held without bond until his release. Burton does not oversee Roberts, who works for another branch of the department.
"It was a great case, and that is probably the most frustrating part of it," Burton said.
Brundage is a suspect in more than two dozen burglaries in recent months that are similar to the one he was charged with committing, Burton said.
The burglaries started in October and occurred mostly in the Takoma, Brightwood and Shepherd Park neighborhoods. Burton deployed teams of officers to prevent the crimes and to try to catch the burglar, who kicked in doors before dashing inside houses and escaping with small items, especially electronics.
About 4:15 p.m. on May 13, a burglar struck a home in the 800 block of Fern Place NW, triggering an alarm. He fled with a calculator and digital camera, according to the homeowner, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.
When officers arrived, they discovered a badly damaged front door and high-tech surveillance equipment monitoring the house, police said. The homeowner said she had installed a motion detector and surveillance cameras because she had grown concerned about the thefts in her neighborhood.
Police reviewed the tape, which showed a man approaching, entering and fleeing the home, according to court charging papers. The man was wearing a Baltimore Orioles baseball hat, black shorts, white socks and black tennis shoes, the records show.
On their way back to the station, officers spotted a man who matched the description of the burglar and detained him, the charging documents show.
Roberts, the detective, showed up and identified him as the person on the surveillance video, the records said.
Brundage, who has a history of arrests on theft and burglary charges and was released from prison last August, was arrested and charged with second-degree burglary.
The homeowner said she has become frustrated in trying to get answers from the police department and didn't understand why the man was released.
"I'm concerned,," she said. "We caught him on tape. How was he let back into the community?"
Researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this story.