Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Suspect charged in rash of thefts

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

EAST WALNUT HILLS - The man would knock on the door of apartments and houses here and in Walnut Hills. If someone answered, he'd ask if they had any "Fix-a-Flat'' for his tire.

If no one was home, he'd break in.

Cincinnati police say Thomas Booker did this day after day in the two neighborhoods throughout August and into early September.

Detective Brett Gleckler said computers, DVD players, jewelry, TVs and money - anything that could be sold or traded for crack cocaine - was stolen.

Booker's in jail now, indicted Friday in five break-ins; police say he's incriminated himself in 13 more.

Booker, 30, who listed his address as the Drop-Inn Center for the homeless, had been out of prison only days when the burglaries began. He was released Aug. 3 after serving four months of a six-month sentence he got after being arrested in February behind the wheel of a Saturn stolen from Sieve Pontiac.

Gleckler arrested him first for an Aug. 24 burglary in an apartment on Cross Lane. A neighbor, who confronted Booker during the incident, identified him from a photo array. After police arrested him Sept. 4 for that one, they confronted Booker with reports from similar burglaries.

They also drove him around the neighborhoods, Gleckler said, while he pointed out places he'd hit.

Kathy Atkinson, president of the Walnut Hills Area Council, said there was "great rejoicing" when Officer Tara Newberry announced at a recent neighborhood meeting that Booker had been arrested. The arrest also was discussed Monday at a meeting of the East Walnut Hills business district.

Police have recovered one computer, one DVD player and some jewelry, but don't expect to find much more.

Each of the five charges carries a penalty of two to eight years in prison.


E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com

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