Boy home during 4S Ranch burglary testifies

SAN DIEGO - Testimony got underway Thursday in the preliminary hearing of a man charged with 11 residential burglaries, including a break-in at a home in 4S Ranch while a 12-year-old boy was home alone.

Duane Edward Herrmann, 43, faces up to 370 years to life in prison if convicted of 18 counts, including a burglary stemming from the Feb. 12 break-in in the 17200 block of Holly Leaf Court, said Deputy District Attorney Cherie Somerville.

Herrmann allegedly broke a window to enter the residence around 4:10 p.m. The boy who was home alone called 911 and deputies arrived in time to confront the intruder, according to San Diego County sheriff's Sgt. James Cady.

Deputies chased the suspect briefly before losing sight of him. Cady said that after an exhaustive search of the area, a service dog found Herrmann hiding the backyard of a home in the 9500 block of Lavender Star Drive. He was arrested without further incident and taken to an area hospital for treatment of dog bite injuries.

The boy was not injured.

On Thursday, the sixth-grader told the court he knew something was wrong when the man at his front door rang the doorbell seven times and then started moving toward the back of the house.

"I saw him go around back where there's a fence, and I thought he would jump a fence," the 12-year-old testified.

The boy said he locked himself in a bathroom when he heard glass breaking. From inside the bathroom he dialed 911.

The boy positively identified Herrmann as the intruder during the court proceeding, but noted that Hermann's beard was longer than it was on the day of the burglary.

Several other victims took the stand, testifying about stolen jewelry and other valuables, most of which was never recovered.

Gary Small's Rancho Bernardo home was broken into on Dec. 4, 2013. His neighbor's surveillance camera caught video of the man riding up on a motorcycle and carrying a backpack, then trying to kick in a door to Small's garage.

Small testified that his kitchen window had been smashed, and some jewelry and electronics were taken.

"You could tell his backpack had a whole lot more in it when he left," Small remarked.

Herrmann's brother, Jim Herrmann, testified that he saw the surveillance video on TV and called police to tell them the man they were looking for was his brother.

San Diego police Officer Eric Husted testified he wrote Duane Herrmann a citation for driving his motorcycle on a suspended license.

Although he knew detectives were looking for a man that matched his description for a string of burglaries, Husted said he didn't have enough evidence to arrest Herrmann, so he let him go.

Two months, and several burglaries later, Herrmann was charged.

At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing -- which resumes Wednesday -- Judge Jeffrey Fraser will determine whether enough evidence was presented for the defendant to stand trial.

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