Jennifer is pleased with her Dodge Challenger, describing it as her “brand-new, luxury vehicle.” She got the two-door coupe in 2010. She says it is not a small vehicle, but a large and roomy car — it is not a gas-sipping economy vehicle. So, one day last January she decided to try saving money on gasoline by taking the Sprinter to work.
It was a Friday, January 4, when Jennifer parked her Challenger at a transit station in Oceanside, on El Camino Real. She was careful to park her car directly under a surveillance camera, and then she took the Sprinter to Carlsbad, where she worked.
Jennifer regretted leaving her car.
She didn’t get back to her car until Saturday morning, January 5, and she was crushed to see the driver’s side window smashed. And her black, faux-leather jacket that she had left on the front passenger seat was missing. There was damage around the top of the car doors, above the windows; there were dents and scratches, and metal was exposed where paint was missing.
Because she had to be somewhere, Jennifer got into her damaged car and drove away. She called Oceanside police that same morning to give them a vehicle-burglary-report, over the phone.
It was an expensive lesson in how not to save a little gas money. “The damage repair is over three thousand dollars,” Jennifer said.
The roving monitor
Before Jennifer found out her Dodge had been broken into, North County Transit District employees were aware of it. A “roving monitor” noticed the smashed window and phoned it in at about 7 a.m. on January 5, 2013. Jennifer didn’t get to her car until two hours later.
Transit-district employee Krystal Vuncannon was in a monitoring location where she could see surveillance video — she could review recorded video and also see certain transit locations live on their security cameras. “We monitor for suspicious activities,” said Krystal.
Vuncannon reviewed video that showed the Challenger parked at the station January 4. She saw that at 11:48 p.m., a suspicious man approached the vehicle. He went back and forth to the vehicle for 13 minutes, until 12:01 a.m.
“At one point, he opens the trunk of the vehicle,” Vuncannon observed. “Another time, he was inside the vehicle with a light.” The suspicious man also looked underneath the vehicle, repeatedly. Vuncannon zoomed in and looked carefully at the man. She studied his clothing and his shoes and the bike he had with him.
Back to the scene of the crime
That same morning, January 5, at about 10 o’clock, Vuncannon saw the same man, this time on the live cameras. He had come back to the Sprinter station on El Camino Real; this time it looked like he was buying a ticket at the vending machine. Vuncannon was sure it was the same man, “right down to the shoes.”
Oceanside police were quickly contacted. Officer Jay Woods said he was actually on the phone with Jennifer, taking her vehicle-burglary report, when he was informed by someone else at the station that a suspect for the same break-in was now at the same transit station.
Cops were kept informed as they rolled to the scene and their suspect got onto a westbound train, so they went to the next station on the route, on Crouch Street.
When officers first spoke with 55-year-old Kevin Eugene Waddell, he told them the black leather jacket in the bag on his bicycle belonged to his girlfriend. Later he admitted breaking into the Dodge and stealing the jacket. And he said he used a screwdriver, which explained the marks and scratches on the car. Officers found a hypodermic needle in his backpack, and Waddell admitted that he stole things because he “needed money for drugs.”
At a court hearing, prosecutor Benjamin Barlow said Waddell had nine prior convictions since 1994 in San Diego County. His crimes include theft, burglary, and possession of burglary tools. Some are “prison priors” and “strike priors.” Some of the records are under an alias, “James Kevin Thomas.”
In late February 2013, Waddell made a plea deal. He admitted one count of felony vehicle burglary and was immediately sentenced to 32 months in state prison.