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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

St. Pete thieves targeted homes tented for termites, police say

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ST. PETERSBURG - Since the beginning of February, detectives have been trying to capture a burglar - or burglars - with a signature that is either very clever or very dangerous, depending on how you look at it.

He breaks in to homes that have been tented as part of a toxic fumigation procedure designed to kill drywood termites.

Twelve times he has struck, slashing tents draped over homes by Terminix, Bingham's Pest Control, Geiger's Pest Control and All Pro Termite, and stealing an array of possessions - from flat-screen TVs and tatoo guns, to china and jewelry.

A break came when a woman, Candice Alexander, 25, went to McNeal Antiques in St. Petersburg in June, trying to sell Gorham silverware with a Camellia design, jewelry and a silver rose, according to jail records. They had been stolen from a house tented by Terminix just days before.

Her husband, Christopher Alexander, 25, was the one that stole them, arrest reports say.

He was arrested Monday after he was seen trying to burglarize a house at 4235 32nd Ave. N. that was not under a fumigation tent, according to St. Petersburg police.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Andrew Licht was doing some work in his home when Alexander broke the back door. Police were called, and Alexander ran. He was tracked by a police dog to a property several houses away, hiding in the rafters of an unattached garage.

So far, Alexander has been arrested on four counts of burglary and one count of resisting arrest without violence.

Alexander is accused in three of the tent burglaries: one in April, at 250 26th St. N.; one in June, at 200 52nd St. S.; and a third, also in June, at 4660 First Ave. S. Alexander stole the items his wife later sold during the First Avenue South break-in, according to police.

"It's kind of unique," said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz. "He said he used a painter's mask," the type typically donned for spray-painting. "It's not going to help you with a tented house. He did say on one occasion he came out and was physically ill, had a hard time breathing, stuff like that."

Alexander's wife was arrested in June on a charge of dealing in stolen property. She was on probation in connection with a grand theft charge at the time, so now she she's also charged with violating her probation.

Investigators are looking for Christopher Alexander's uncle, Michael Murphy, 36, who they say was with Alexander during the June break-in on 52nd Street South.

Because Michael Murphy swiped a Bersa .380-caliber handgun during the burglary, he faces a charge of armed residential burglary. He also faces two counts of dealing in stolen property.

In addition to the gun, the items taken during that break-in included two televisions, two Trek bicycles, a Blu-ray player, an X-box, a gold necklace with a sailboat pendant and a gold ring with a ruby inlay, according to records.

A few days later, Murphy pawned the unusual necklace at a Value Pawn and Jewelry, records state.

There was one burglary at a tented house the Alexander family is not suspected of committing, Puetz said.

That one happened on Feb. 22, at 3535 Seventh Ave. N. Foreign currency, two iPods and an antique gold man's watch were taken.

A transient, John Marika, 28, pawned at least one of the items, leaving his fingerprint at a pawn shop as part of the pawning procedure, and it was matched with a latent print left at the house, Puetz said.

Marika, who was linked to at least one other burglary, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail and now faces two counts of burglary and two counts of dealing in stolen property. He has remained at the jail since his arrest, but the break-ins at tented homes continued.

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504

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