Friday Favorite: Stealing From the Dead Probably isn’t the Smartest Thing, Especially Right Before Halloween!

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I am going to start a new series to post each Friday what my favorite crime story of the week was, with a little bit of explanation of the charge or potential charges. Here is a local one to start with.

In Rancho Palos Verdes, a 21-year-old Redondo Beach man has been charged with two counts of felony burglary for taking personal items of deceased people from inside a mausoleum at a Rancho Palos Verdes cemetery. This is my Friday Favorite because I thought it fit in just well with the upcoming Halloween weekend. Not to be gruesome or inconsiderate about the victims here, but it can’t be a coincidence that he was allegedly seen taking things from a mausoleum the week before Halloween. I wonder what would happen if he brought those items into the bathroom, closed the door, turned off the lights and played Bloody Mary. Would the owners of the personal items appear in the mirror with Bloody Mary? Okay, enough insensitive talk from me.

Burglary means that you enter a building (or other specified enclosure) with the intent to commit a theft or felony once inside. He is likely charged with second degree burglary which requires entry into a commercial building. First degree burglary is commonly referred to as residential burglary and is the more serious of the two types. You commit first degree burglary if you burgle any inhabited dwelling, that is, a place where someone lives or sleeps. A dwelling is “inhabited” if it is used for dwelling purposes, whether or not it is currently occupied.  I wouldn’t put it past a prosecutor to charge him with first degree burglary arguing that the mausoleum was in fact occupied by persons in their final resting place.

It is the “intent” which will be hard to prove in this case. The prosecutor must prove that he intended to commit a felony or petty theft at the time he entered the mausoleum. California burglary law, under Penal Code 459, requires that you intend to “commit a petty theft, grand theft, or other felony” once inside. It isn’t necessary for the prosecutor to prove that you actually committed the intended crime, only that you intended to do so. Sometimes intent is obvious, sometimes it’s not. He was seen trying to open a glass cabinet inside a container holding the personal items of the deceased. Without more, the defense would argue that he knew the deceased and was replacing the personal items or adding to it. There is no indication that he walked into the mausoleum with tools to pry the glass open or had a bag in which to place items that he was taking. It is these tools and other actions by the defendant that prosecutors use to prove “intent”. This case will definitely be interesting.

If he is convicted of second degree burglary as a felony, he faces sixteen months, or two or three years in the state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Read the news article and see his mug shot here.

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