2018-08-09 / Front Page

Mello says burglars had no ties to island

Not sure if two men arrested are linked to earlier break-ins

MELLO MELLO Following arrests in town last week that made news throughout New England, Jamestown’s police chief said he does not believe the daytime robberies are part of a larger criminal enterprise.

Ed Mello hosted a community forum last Thursday at the library, three days after two men were arrested in the East Passage Estates. During that meeting, Mello told homeowners he had a “great deal of confidence” no one else was involved.

“They just lack the ability, lack the planning and lack the intelligence to organize themselves beyond what they did,” he said.

Thomas Pleau, 43, of Woonsocket, and John Young, 26, of Providence, were arrested July 30 on Intrepid Lane and each charged with five counts of breaking and entering. The two suspects were apprehended following a tip from the police department in Sutton, Mass., which had bugged the suspected car while investigating a string of burglaries in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Since then, the only other suspect linked to the crimes was a woman who lived with them in a Woonsocket motel room.

Mello decided to host a community forum to discuss the events and answer questions, aside from details pertinent to the ongoing investigation.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” he said. “We have dozens of pieces of property we are still cataloging. We are still interviewing witnesses and victims. We’re still linking forensic evidence to particular homes to make sure we had solid cases against the six homes that were broken into.”

During the forum, Mello detailed the events leading to the arrests, including the assistance from Newport police, North Kingstown police and a K-9 unit from the state police. He also theorized about the motive.

“They would wake up in the morning, need money for drugs and head to a community to see how many houses they could break into,” he said. Then, the suspects would allegedly hawk the stolen items at pawn shops.

“It’s not a complex ring of criminal elements,” Mello said. “It’s a very simplistic, thankfully not well thought out, criminal plan.”

During the day of the arrests, Mello’s department received a phone call from Sutton authorities about a vehicle allegedly linked to burglaries in the area. The GPS tracking device, however, could not pinpoint an exact location.

“It was not extremely alarming at that point,” Mello said. “Oftentimes, we get reports, not necessarily for suspects, but for lost persons or cell phones, and they’ll give us the coordinates. Come to find out, it’s Narragansett or Middletown because they’re not necessarily that accurate.”

Shortly after, police received another phone call from a homeowner on Lawn Avenue who reportedly had been confronted by someone in her home. Mello said the confrontation was not violent, and the homeowner only realized the man broke into her home after he fled.

Mello and two other officers, Karen Catlow and Ron Jacobson, then began scouring the island for the vehicle and man. During this search, updated information from Sutton reported the car was near Intrepid Lane.

“We almost immediately found the vehicle in motion with one person in the vehicle,” Mello said. “We quickly took that person into custody based upon the information that we had. There were dozens of items easily seen in the backseat that did not belong there. A lot of women’s jewelry.”

After arresting Young, the alleged driver of the vehicle, Mello suspected there was another person involved. After a quick search, he encountered that second man walking down Intrepid Lane carrying a gym bag.

“I engaged that person and ended up in a brief foot pursuit,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons why I didn’t continue, mostly because I hadn’t secured my vehicle or the property. I didn’t know if there was a weapon in the bag. All these things are going through my head and I knew we had a dog, which I had requested earlier for Lawn Avenue.”

Eventually, the K-9 unit joined Mello, and the troopers tracked Pleau through several backyards on Intrepid Lane and America Way. They ultimately discovered him allegedly hiding in underbrush near a stone wall along America Way.

“Had it not been for that dog, chances are we would have not found that individual,” Mello said.

Mello said the two men also were responsible for the confrontation on Lawn Avenue. He finds this fact “unnerving” because the men allegedly continued their crime spree into the north end after being confronted.

“That’s concerning, that level of desperation or determination,” he said.

Mello was asked why the suspects chose Jamestown, specifically Intrepid Lane. Mello could not divulge that information because it was part of the investigation, although he did say it was possible the suspects had gotten lost in the East Passage Estates while trying to flee the island following the Lawn confrontation. He said the men don’t appear to have a connection to Jamestown.

Mello also said their decision-making process was relatively simplistic, such as choosing homes with no cars in the driveway.

After detailing the events, Mello reiterated some home security tips. For example, he suggested homeowners could ward off potential thieves by placing stickers for security systems in their windows, even if there is no system installed.

While none of the ninebreak-ins reported between November 2016 and January 2018 have been officially linked to these two suspects, Mello said some of those unsolved cases may be reopened.

As the meeting wound down, Mello said a detective from Sutton visited him following the arrests. He was apologetic for not solving the case before it arrived in Jamestown. Mello, however, said Sutton authorities were instrumental in the investigation.

“Could you imagine what it would have been like for our community on Tuesday morning had we not had that electronic surveillance device?” he said. “We had no vehicle description at that time. We only had information that a home was broken into on Lawn Avenue. We would have learned later on there were five other houses broken into.”

Pleau and Young were arraigned at Newport district court the day after they were arrested. Along with breaking and entering, they were charged with conspiracy. Bail was set at $70,000.

Mello said further developments in the case can be followed online at the Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal.

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