Burglar bearing gas can cleans out home

Posted at 6:46 PM, Oct 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 18:15:48-04

ALPINE, Calif. -- Investigators believe a burglar used a sympathetic ploy to target a home in Alpine, before making off with a big haul -- including an item the homeowner had been saving 18 years for.

Past noon on Friday, surveillance video shows a red Toyota Camry pulling up to a home on West Victoria Drive. Nine minutes later, a man is spotted walking up to the front door with a gas can in his hand.

Investigators believe the man knocked on the door or rang the doorbell. If someone was home, he would have asked for some gas.

However, nobody was home, and detectives said this burglar went right to work.

"He goes around the side. Then he rips off the screen. He goes through the bathroom door, and our video shows he was there for 40 minutes," said homeowner Bill Hoagland.

When Hoagland returned home a few hours later, he found a ransacked house.

Most of the valuables were gone, including a coin collection passed down from his father and all of his wife's jewelry. The total loss was about $20,000.

Hoagland's most painful loss was a giant pickle jar filled with bills and change -- some $2,000 worth.

Hoagland, his wife and two children had been saving for 15 years for a vacation they were hoping to take soon.

"We were getting close. We were watching the change go up and it was getting close, said Hoagland.

Instead, that vacation is now postponed indefinitely.

Hoagland is hoping to get that money back when investigators track down the man with the gas can.

Detectives believe he's linked to several other burglaries.

"He did violate us. I know some people feel victimized, but I just want to get even," said Hoagland.

A license plate is visible on the video and detectives believe they know who the suspect is but have not released the identity.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Alpine sheriff's station.

Detective said it's not unusual for burglars to knock on doors with a fake story before returning later to break into a home.

UPDATE (Oct. 21, 2016): 10News learned a Lemon Grove sheriff's deputy pulled over the red Toyota Camry linked to the crime. The driver, 26-year-old Gabriel Lopez, was arrested, and deputies recovered some of the jewelry and coins from the coin collection and the pickle jar.

Lopez allegedly spent $2,000, as only 40 cents was recovered.

Lopez also faces charges in connetion with several other burglaries.