A routine traffic stop made by Santa Barbara California Highway Patrol officers on Saturday led to the capture of four burglars that allegedly preyed on numerous cars and residences along the Central Coast last week.
CHP spokesman Don Clotworthy said at approximately 11:30 p.m., officers responded to reports of a man slumped over the wheel of a pickup truck blocking traffic on State Route 192 near Freehaven Drive. When the officers contacted the man, he appeared to be under the influence of drugs, and when they questioned him he admitted that there was crystal methamphetamine and marijuana inside the truck.
In addition to the drugs, Clotworthy said, when officers searched the vehicle they also found a large quantity of stolen property, including laptop computers, PlayStations, Game Cubes, drills and a small refrigerator. Police arrested the driver, identified as 24-year-old Christian Doyle of Bakersfield, Calif., who then said he would take them to a hotel room containing more suspects and stolen property.
Doyle directed CHP investigators to a room at the Hacienda Motel in Santa Barbara, where they arrested Clint Kay, 24, Latoya Edwards, 24 and Justin Fritz, 26, all of Bakersfield, and recovered more stolen property.
Among the items recovered from the hotel room were numerous stolen wallets, driver licenses, social security cards, birth certificates, checks, briefcases, video game consoles and a .22 caliber rifle.
“It’s a very big bust,” Clotworthy said. “Monetarily, it’s hard to gauge the value of all the property recovered so far, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
After interrogating the suspects, Clotworthy said, investigators determined that the four had gone on a crime spree beginning in Pismo Beach last Wednesday, committing more burglaries in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Santa Maria and Summerland before their apprehension in Santa Barbara on Saturday.
Clotworthy said the Santa Barbara CHP has assigned special investigators to work on the case full-time and cooperate with the police departments of the other cities hit by the burglars.
“We will be working with those agencies and their detective bureaus to locate victims and return as much of the stolen property as possible,” Clotworthy said.
While Isla Vista residences are often targets for residential burglars, Clotworthy said there is not yet any indication that the four suspects arrested Saturday were responsible for any crimes there.
“None of the property we’ve recovered so far indicates Isla Vista as a location where the suspects committed burglaries,” Clotworthy said.
The four suspects now face several felony charges, including burglary, possession of stolen property, identity theft, fraud and other drug-related charges. Clotworthy said more counts will likely be added as the investigation progresses.