A man accused of burglarizing at least seven San Diego-area homes while they were being fumigated slashed his way through tents covering the houses, the lead detective on the case testified Tuesday.
Suspect Salvador Amador Padilla, 34, is linked to the series of burglaries targeting homes under fumigation. From July 2015 through January 2016, the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) received 19 reports of burglaries at homes undergoing pest extermination. Evidence eventually led police to arrest Padilla on Feb. 9 as the suspect in at least seven of the cases.
At Padilla’s preliminary hearing Tuesday, SDPD Det. Claudia Shadoan took the stand and talked about some patterns she picked up on as she investigated the burglary series.
“In all of the cases, [the suspect] would cut the tent open in the back area of the house – whether it was a window or a back door. There was always a cut in the tent, in the front area of the house, directly in front of the garage door,” Shadoan explained.
In some cases, Shadoan said witnesses reported seeing a man driving away in a Jeep Cherokee.
At the time of his arrest last month, Padilla was allegedly caught red-handed breaking into a tented home, police said. When investigators searched Padilla’s home, they uncovered stolen property linked to multiple victims in the burglary series.
Shadoan said investigators also found a respiratory mask, which they believe the suspect wore to avoid fumes inside the homes he allegedly burglarized. Detectives matched Padilla’s fingerprints to fingerprints left behind at several of the burglaries.
Tuesday’s prelim also included testimony from homeowner Steven Baugh, one of the burglary victims. Baugh said he was first alerted to something suspicious happening at his home via video captured by surveillance cameras he had installed on his property.
Baugh was at work when he checked the footage from his home remotely on his cell phone. He noticed an unknown man, now identified as Padilla, moving around inside his home. At first, Baugh said he thought Padilla was an exterminator preparing to start the fumigation job. Baugh decided to leave work and go home so he could be there to speak to exterminators.
However, when he arrived at his home, Baugh testified that no exterminators appeared to be around. Baugh said he heard movement coming from his tented home, specifically from his bedroom. He called out to see if anyone was inside, but got no answer. Shortly after that, as Baugh stood in the driveway, he realized his home was being burglarized.
“The next thing I knew, I see a knife coming in and cut a slit in the tent,” Baugh testified.
He immediately called 911 to report the burglary in progress.
Baugh testified that his surveillance cameras captured video of Padilla gathering items from inside his home and placing them by a side door.
Later, when the fumigation tent on Baugh’s home was lifted and he was allowed to return home, he said he found many things amiss, including drawers that had been tipped over, a television that had been unplugged and placed on his bed and a jewelry box that had been emptied. A rifle that Baugh had stored in the closet of his bedroom was also placed inside a trash can.
Baugh’s wife, Mercedes, said they had decided to install cameras on their property before the fumigation project because, in her words, “we work so hard for the things in our house.”
Police said the homes targeted in these burglaries were tented by various fumigation companies. Investigators said that if your home is being fumigated, you should notify your neighbors so they can be on alert for any suspicious activity. Also, police advise homeowners to take valuables with them for the duration of the pest control project.