A man arrested this week after allegedly breaking into a Chehalis church confessed to his involvement in a string of recent burglaries at Lewis County businesses, including spots in Winlock and Toledo, according to court documents.
Joshua A. Duncan, 32, Chehalis, was charged with three counts of second-degree burglary and single counts of second-degree theft and possession of a controlled substance. The Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office indicated during a preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon that two more burglary counts will likely be filed.
Court documents state that just past midnight on Wednesday, officers with the Chehalis Police Department were tipped off to a burglary in progress at New Beginnings Church in the 600 block of Northwest St. Helens Avenue. The caller said he was watching a real-time security feed, depicting a man inside the church, looking at its sound equipment.
Officers went to the church, but didn’t note any conventional signs of a break-in. They entered the building. The suspect, later allegedly identified as Duncan, ran out a back entrance, but was found later hiding in a wooded area off the 1000 block of Northwest Pindle Street.
Police allegedly found a pipe on his person, which field-tested positive for meth residue.
Police believe Duncan accessed the church through a hole cut in the ceiling. A probable cause affidavit filed after the alleged botched church burglary referred to the hole as a “custom entry point” and was found surrounded by tools.
Immediately following his arrest, Duncan was charged with second-degree burglary and possession of a controlled substance, and placed on a $100,000 bond following a preliminary hearing Wednesday.
At the same time, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office had an open investigation into an Aug. 12 burglary in Toledo.
According to investigative reports from the sheriff’s office obtained by the Chronicle, just before 3 a.m. Aug. 12, deputies were dispatched to an active burglar alarm at Mrs. Beesley’s Burgers in the 300 block of Cowlitz Ridge Road in Toledo. Nobody was inside the building when they got there, but security footage gave some hint to the suspect’s antics.
Footage reportedly caught the suspect crawling very slowly on the ground. One of the restaurant’s owners reportedly told deputies that was likely an attempt to not trip motion sensing alarms. The man then pulled the cash register onto the floor, pried it open and took its contents. The owner said the contents of the register tallied to more than $1,870. Duncan, during a later interview with law enforcement, would insist he only took $250.
Further on in the footage, the suspect stands up, and an alarm is activated. The burglar, in a panic, opens a back door and runs off.
During ensuing investigation, a deputy taking photos of the scene found a clear shoe print on an outdoor picnic table that was flipped over onto its side along the wall of the building. The placement of the print indicated the suspect used the table as a step to climb up on top of the building. On the roof, the deputy found a section of air ducting ripped off, exposing a two-by-two-foot hole in the roof, providing a drop down into the building.
The following day, a Toledo police officer hinted the suspect could have been the same from other area burglaries, saying the clothes of the man in the security footage was similar to what a suspect was wearing during the commission of other area burglaries. A possible suspect was named in sheriff’s office reports, but that person was not charged.
When Duncan was taken into custody on suspicion of the Chehalis church break-in, deputies noted how similar his book-in picture was to the suspect from the Toledo restaurant break-in — his visage viewable from the security footage.
The sheriff’s office reports go on to include Duncan’s interview with Deputy Rick VanWyck with the sheriff’s office and Winlock Police Chief Stephen Valentine Wednesday afternoon — the same day he was arrested.
During that interview, Duncan allegedly confessed to the burglary at Mrs. Beesley’s Burgers, a burglary on July 26 at Cedar Village IGA in Winlock, an Aug. 17 burglary at the Winlock Handi Store and a break-in at Bonanza BBQ in Toledo on an unspecified date.
According to a transcript of the interview, he used money from the burglaries most frequently on gambling.
“Okay, uh, is it safe to say you have a gambling problem?” asked VanWyck.
“Yeah,” Duncan allegedly replied.
“Methamphetamine problem?” the deputy asked.
“Little bit, maybe,” was the response.
Duncan allegedly said he had been high on meth when he broke into the Toledo burger joint.
For both of the Winlock burglaries, he described similar methods to Valentine: He got onto a roof, broke a vent and lowered himself into the stores. At IGA, he allegedly said, he tied a garden hose to a fixed point and used it to slide down into the store. In both of those instances, he said he stole lottery tickets and change. He made a hasty retreat from the Handi store once an alarm was activated.
As for Bonanza BBQ, he allegedly said he got in through a window, and stole some cash and a Samsung tablet.
Duncan made another appearance in Lewis County Superior Court Thursday afternoon, after landing new charges for the additional burglaries. On Thursday, the charges had not been filed yet for the two Toledo burglaries.
Judge Joely O’Rourke bumped Duncan’s bond to $250,000 cash, in tune with a request from the prosecutor’s office. He has an arraignment scheduled for Thursday.