tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
  • Home
Community News

Polk burglary suspect breaks into van, falls asleep

A repeat criminal had a busy night burglarizing cars, but was caught when a homeowner found him asleep in a minivan he had broken into.

James Holder, 27, of 29 Avenue B, Auburndale, was arrested late Friday afternoon and charged with three counts of failure to appear in court, resisting arrest, conveyance burglary, three counts of larceny/grand theft, two counts of burglary, possession of burglary tools, and battery, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The case started early Friday when a resident in the Schalamar Golf community, in an unincorporated area between Auburndale and Lakeland, when a homeowner saw a golf cart in his driveway that was not his, the sheriff’s office said.

The homeowner went to investigate and found a man sleeping in his minivan. The homeowner woke the man who then said his name was James and that he had an outstanding warrant, and then fled on foot, according to the sheriff’s office.

But, the suspect left items in the minivan that he had stolen from other vehicles, the sheriff’s office said, primarily small electronics and some change.

“If it’s open, they help themselves,” said Scott Wilder, communications manager for the sheriff’s officer, of all the unlocked vehicles that were burglarized.

Deputies found a witness who said he gave a ride to a man who matched the suspect’s description to the Evergreen Mobile Home Park. When deputies arrived, they saw a man running from them into a mobile home. The man was not the burglary suspect. But, he was William Hunter, 49, of 18 Avenue B, Auburndale, who was arrested on an outstanding warrant for violation of probation on charges of criminal mischief and resisting arrest without violence.

Deputies asked him if he knew a James described the suspect, and then Hunter directed them to another mobile home where a woman told deputies that James Holder was hiding inside, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies yelled to Holder that Shea, a deputy’s dog, would be released to find him if he did not surrender, the sheriff’s office said. Holder ignored the warning, the dog was released and Shea found him hiding under clothing in a utility area and bit him on the thumb, giving him a minor injury.

Holder was then identified by the Schalamar resident, and a stolen camera and camcorder were retrieved from the mobile home, according to the sheriff’s office.

He had stolen the golf cart from another residence, drove it to the next house where he got into the minivan and fell asleep, Wilder said.

Holder has 21 prior arrests in Polk County on a variety of charges, including domestic violence battery, possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana, grand theft, dealing in stolen property, resisting arrest and giving false information to pawn broker.

He was still being held in the Polk County Jail on Tuesday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said this case is another example that shows people who say the criminal justice is too tough that more needs to be done to keep repeat offenders off the streets.

Judd also said the way the suspect was found shows that there is little fear of the system.

“It takes a lot of moxie to fall asleep in a car you have just broken into,” Judd said. “Is he concerned with going back to prison?”

“Our criminal justice system failed this guy,” Judd said. “Hopefully this time we will send him a clear message.”

Weather Center