Ceres resident Nick Maynard wasn’t too keen about someone breaking into his garage early Friday morning, Oct. 26 and making off with $5,000 worth of his belongings.
Because only about 10 percent of burglaries end in an arrest, the odds of police catching Maynard’s thief were slim – until his self-initiated sleuthing helped officers arrest Jason James Soloman, 39, of Ceres the following day.
This was the second time a burglar struck his property in the 1100 block of San Pedro Avenue. Late last year someone broke into his backyard shed so he installed a $1,800 security camera system. That system captured images of a thief rolling by in a distinctly painted van and helping himself to Maynard’s subwoofer car speakers and tools he inherited from his grandfather.
The thefts occurred in four trips starting at 4:10 a.m. and ending at 5:21 a.m. when his wife’s bicycle was rolled away into the darkness.
“I saw the last time that he came at 5:21, he came up walking up Granite Falls so I figured he must be local,” concluded Maynard.
His initial suspicion of a neighbor’s grandson with a checkered past committed the burglary led police to perform a consensual search and, of course, came up empty-handed.
After a rough night’s sleep, Maynard and a neighbor walked the neighborhood to see if other homes had been burglarized. They found nothing but the walk inspired Maynard to take a closer look at the surveillance video. This time he spotted something not obvious before: His garage had been opened by someone at 2 a.m. For the next two hours a suspicious man walked by twice and drove by twice in a 1980s model van.
“I think he was just trying to see if anyone would wake up because obviously he knew he were home, both cars were in the garage so he was nervous about that.”
Just before the thefts, the image of that van was seen driving down the street and parking around the corner on Boulder Falls Court at 4:04 a.m. The thief is seen walking to Maynard’s house from the van and walking back to the van with Maynard’s property.
“If I could find the van, I would find the thief."Nick Maynard
“If I could find the van, I would find the thief,” explained Maynard.
Later on that Saturday, Maynard went for a walk through the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex. There on the corner of Morgan Road and Tranquil Lane was the van.
“My heart was racing. I just knew that this was the van. As I walked by, the apartment nearest to the van had the doors open with people inside and out so I didn’t take a photo as I didn’t want to spook them if they happened to be the thief.”
He returned home, got his car and rolled by the apartment to snap photos of the van and its license plates and called police. Officer Jessica Graham was given the new information and learned the plates did not match the vehicle to which they were registered. When she rolled by the van someone had covered the rear plate with a black trash bag, probably since he saw Maynard taking pictures. Officer Graham knew the van’s owner was a repeat offender by the name Jason Solomon.
Anticipating that Graham was going to see if Maynard or his wife would allow a search of the van and their apartment, Maynard kept an eye on the apartment while parked at the Quik Stop across the street. He saw the officer arrive, peek into the van and knock on Soloman’s door. A woman answered and Maynard could see the officer showing the video of the theft. Soloman appeared at the door and denied being in the video, suggesting “it could have been anybody.”
Officer Graham called Maynard to over and whispered: “They aren’t being cooperative and won’t let me search the van, but the license plates not matching the vehicle are enough reason to tow it. Take a look in the window.”
Maynard saw his speaker box and amps sitting inside the van.
“I was so excited I had to do everything in my power to stay calm. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins.”
Other officers and a sergeant arrived. Since the plates were stolen from another vehicle police now had probable cause to search the van.
“When they opened the back door, I saw my steam mop, knife and other miscellaneous items that he stole from our garage.”
When Maynard spotted his wife’s stolen bike sitting in the backyard police had probable cause to search the home.
“Another three officers came with their lights on with sirens blaring, screeching their tires as they approached the apartment. They all went into the apartment and found Jason Solomon hiding in his bedroom. They arrested him and led him out of the apartment in handcuffs. I was on Cloud Nine.”
Ceres Police Sgt. Jose Berber told Maynard he had not seen many victims help solve their own case.
“He came back over to me and asked if I would put in an application as they needed more detectives at the department,” laughed Maynard who said he is content to being a loan officer.
“All in all, I got my speakers and amps back, but he had poked holes into both speakers with a knife trying to remove the covers that come off without tools. So, even though I got those back the speakers will still need to be replaced.”
Missing were Maynard’s air compressor drills, backpack, fishing equipment, pocket knife and deer meat supplied by a friend who shot it in Mississippi. Also missing was the redfish given him by the same friend who chartered a fishing trip in Louisiana. Maynard believes Soloman peddled them for cash on Friday.
“Another criminal in jail before the holidays will hopefully equal less of my good neighbors getting stolen from and holidays ruined. To see him in cuffs and put into the back of the squad car was worth it.”
Soloman, who has a history of drug and theft charges, is in jail on $150,000 bail. He has been charged with first-degree burglary, receiving stolen property and possession of methamphetamine.
He is expected to go to court on Nov. 26.