Sonoran News, sonorannews.com
BYLINE: LINDA BENTLEY
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Maricopa County, AZ
‘In the end, it was cutting-edge police technology used by my Fountain Hills detectives that led us to this criminal’
PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Robert James Neese, identified through DNA as the “Rock Burglar,” on the morning of May 27 in south Phoenix.
Neese has eluded law enforcement for over 17 years as he committed burglaries in affluent neighborhoods of Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Carefree and Fountain Hills.
He was dubbed the “Rock Burglar” because he would throw a large rock through a window to gain entry – often through a bathroom window, which was generally not hooked up to the alarm system.
Neese worked fast and was gone before law enforcement could respond to calls.
In 2005, using DNA evidence collected from a number of crime scenes, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office obtained a “John Doe” indictment based on that evidence, since law enforcement did not know the suspect’s identity.
According to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, the John Doe indictment puts his office in a position to prosecute Neese, now that his identity is known, for crimes he allegedly committed some time ago.
Considering he is suspected of stealing over $10 million in jewelry, cash, coins and weapons over the past 17 years, Neese was said to be unemployed and living in a trailer park in Mayer, Ariz., located in Yavapai County about 10 miles northwest of Cordes Junction.
Detectives believe Neese was probably living off the proceeds of his burglaries, items he most likely fenced for pennies on the dollar.
Neese has a history of burglary-related criminal activity and was incarcerated during the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s with the Arizona Department of Corrections, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio believes he likely learned to perfect his craft.
At first it seemed as though the Rock Burglar hadn’t struck in about five years, but according to MCSO Lt. Dave Munley, he changed his M.O.
Instead of selecting random locations in Scottsdale, Carefree and Paradise Valley, Neese concentrated on homes in Fountain Hills.
Munley also said he chucked his rock-throwing trademark in favor of prying open doors to gain entry.
However, Arpaio said, although Neese was clever enough to avoid detection all these years, “In the end, it was cutting-edge police technology used by my Fountain Hills detectives that led us to this criminal.”
MCSO Sgt. Marty Overton and Detective Jason Bezel used computer modeling and a probability study to determine where and when the Rock Burglar might strike again.
They narrowed it down to three homes in Fountain Hills and then sat and watched those homes on Saturday night, May 14.
A 911 call from a homeowner led deputies to one of the homes, where they arrested Neese and charged him with possession of burglary tools.
Evidence seized during his arrest linked Neese to other burglaries and it appears he is likely responsible for more than 60 burglaries in Fountain Hills over the past two or more years.
Ultimately, it was DNA that connected Neese to approximately 325 burglaries, which included the homes of former Vice President Dan Qualye and Arizona Diamondback players Mark Grace and Steve Finley.
Although Neese was released on his own recognizance following his May 15 arrest, MCSO kept him under constant surveillance until his arrest on the morning of May 27 on the March 2005 grand jury indictment, which Montgomery’s office moved to amend last week.
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