Three men have been charged in a string of burglaries in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, and one is a parolee out of prison after the 1988 murder of a 13-year-old girl.
The men have been stealing items from neighborhood garages, mainly power tools, and police need the victims to come forward to claim their stolen goods.
The three suspects include Michael A. Martinez, 44; Richard A. Nunez, 51; and Courtney D. McFields, 30. Martinez, who was charged with burglary, and Nunez, charged with burglary and unlawful use of a weapon, are both being held in lieu of $500,000 bail each; bail for McFields, who faces a burglary charge, was set at $250,000.
The Chicago Police Department reported that all three men were arrested by Area Central detectives and officers from the Ogden District burglary team after breaking into a building in the 2100 block of South California Avenue.
The investigation into the burglaries began in May 2013 after break-ins to commercial buildings in Little Village, with the presence of a beige GMC van tying several of the burglaries together.
Detectives began surveillance on Nunez some time ago and saw him and two others, wearing all black clothing, gloves, and masks, break into the South California building.
Upon exiting the building, Nunez, Martinez and McFields were arrested, and police recovered $12,000 cash and various electronics from the suspects.
Investigators also obtained warrants to search storage facilities belonging to one of the men and found various stolen items such as power tools, computers, electronics and jewelry worth more than $10,000. Also confiscated were a shotgun, ammunition and a loaded revolver, and two vehicles were impounded, according to reports.
This isn’t the first time any of the suspects has faced a major prison sentence.
In 1989, Martinez pleaded guilty to the murder of 13-year-old Nellie Cardenas and attempted murder of three other teenagers after mistaking them for rival gang members. He served just over half of his 45-year prison sentence before being paroled last year.
Nunez had been sentenced to 20 years in prison after a robbery in 1998 and had also been paroled, and McFields spent nine years in prison after a 2002 carjacking.
All three men are documented gang members, according to the Chicago Police Department.
Anyone who may have been a victim of the robberies is encouraged to visit the Ogden District station or call 312-747-7013 to reclaim their stolen items. Other items found include air compressors, flood lights, table saws, circular saws, power painters, heaters, computers, other electronics and jewelry.
The burglaries pose a grim reminder to residents in all areas to secure their windows and doors — including the garage door. One research estimate states that around 50% of all residential burglaries occur because of an open or unsecured garage door.
Experts state that preventing burglaries through a garage door starts with the homeowner. Police advise homeowners to close and lock the garage door and all interior doors, even when staying at home; to avoid leaving valuables in vehicles; and to keep high value items, such as golf clubs or power tools, further away from the overhead door.
Back in July, another string of burglaries occurred throughout Highland Park and other communities near Chicago, with three suspects breaking into homes through garages and stealing vehicles and other valuables.