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Burglar gets 15-year sentence

He drifted through a three-county area, harvesting high-dollar households for cash, jewelry, and whatever else caught his eye.

He worked by night, and few heard him come and go; those who did often waited crucial minutes before summoning police.

The pattern of his crimes was identical everywhere – occupied, unlocked homes in waterfront neighborhoods, small valuables taken, doors left ajar when he left.

“He just walked around and looked for the biggest, most expensive houses he could find,” said Scott Anderson, Bainbridge Police detective.

Yet while the M.O. became a signature of sorts, area law enforcement agencies were by their own admission slow to share crucial information that would eventually lead to the arrest of burglar John Charles “Chuck” Troiano.

For a spree that touched Bainbridge and Mercer Islands, as well as Jefferson County, Troiano, age 36, was sentenced May 16 to 15 years in the state penitentiary.

“He said that drugs played a big role (in the burglaries), but when he got desperate for money, that’s what he’d fall back on,” said Anderson, who found Troiano forthright and pleasant after his arrest in early January.

Troiano’s local crimes began last fall, when he cut nighttime swaths through the Crystal Springs, Pleasant Beach and South Beach neighborhoods.

Purses were emptied, items ranging from jewelry to minks to a laptop computer to a painting to an ornamental Faberge-style egg carted off.

The spree resumed at Pleasant Beach in mid-December; the burglar hid out in a vacant home while police searched the neighborhood, escaping the next morning in a stolen pickup.

In frustration, Bainbridge Police took their story to a Seattle television station.

“Nothing else was working,” Anderson said. “We felt he had to be doing this elsewhere, and we’d already gone to all the police departments we could think of.”

The Monday following the newscast, Anderson got a call from police on Mercer Island; there, a man had recently been arrested for identical burglaries, but was released by a judge before trial.

That gave Bainbridge Police a name – Troiano – and a Bremerton address, linking him to Kitsap County.

Then the stolen pickup was found abandoned on a Port Ludlow golf course, “traded in” for a nearby Cadillac. Keeping the latter vehicle proved to be Troiano’s undoing; he was arrested in early January after crashing the car during a police chase in South Kitsap.

While police had little direct evidence tying him to specific crimes, they had amassed a mountain of circumstantial evidence that led to a plea bargain.

Unusual was the willingness of prosecutors in three counties to lump their cases together for a single prosecution, rather than fighting over jurisdiction. Before the bench of Kitsap Judge Karlynn Haberly, Troiano – who had tried, with marginal success, to help police recover items he’d stolen – was given an exceptional sentence of 15 years.

The conviction closed out what Kitsap Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Claire Bradley “conservatively” estimated at 20 crimes.

Total value of property stolen on Bainbridge Island is $112,000; in King County, $300,000. All that has been recovered from the Bainbridge burglaries is a painting valued at $5,000, and several minks.

“Not much,” Anderson said.

Nevertheless, interim Police Chief Matt Haney praised Anderson and Detective Scott Weiss for cracking the case.

In an environment where crime bulletins between departments can come and go “without a lot of attention,” Haney credited the detectives with “putting it all together.”

“The detectives involved did an outstanding job in their approach to the whole investigation, their thoroughness, their dogged determination not to give up,” Haney said.

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